It was a little too much of everything.
Toledo Rogers was quicker, bigger and had the advantage in every key statistic of Friday’s Division II regional championship game against Bellevue at Ontario High School.
But no stat stood out more than the Rams (23-4) scoring 16 points off 16 Bellevue turnovers, and a 34-8 scoring advantage in the paint in a 52-40 win to advance to the state semifinals next week.
The Lady Red end the season at 22-5 overall, and reached the regional championship for just the second time in program history (1983-84).
“The pressure got to us, and I thought we made some uncharacteristic errors,” Bellevue coach Ryan Orshoski said. “We dribbled into traffic sometimes, and some no calls went their way. When you turn the ball over in a live ball situation, that’s when Rogers is at their best.”
Leading 8-3 at the end of the first quarter, Rogers went on its most decisive run of the game early in the second. The Rams went on a 12-2 run in less than three minutes to begin the second, taking a 20-5 lead with 5:08 left in the half on a mid-range Sasha Dailey jumper.
Bellevue countered with six straight points, including a 3-pointer and a short jumper by Carly Santoro, which cut the deficit to 20-11 with 3:37 left in the half. But the Rams quelled the Bellevue rally seven of the last 11 points in the half to open up a 27-15 lead at the break.
Makala Daniel opened the third quarter with a basket to make it 27-17, but the Rams reeled off the next eight points to again go ahead comfortably, 35-17.
The Lady Red cut the deficit to 39-28 on Santoro’s third 3-pointer of the game with 6:52 left. But Michigan verbal Akenriah Johnson came right back with a basket inside, and Keyanna Austin made a pair of free throws to put the Rams up 43-28 with 4:10 left, and the Lady Red drew no closer, except for when Jenna Strayer hit a 3-pointer as time expired for the final margin.
Johnson and Keasja Peace did much of the damage inside against the Lady Red, combining for 19 points and 12 rebounds in a fairly low-scoring game.
“Our size differential hurt us today,” Orshoski said. “Our girls have battled and are agile, but they are undersized posts. When you are battling three or four girls who are 6-foot-2, sometimes you just have to tip your hat to them and say you got beat by the better team.”
Rogers coach Lamar Smith felt over the course of 32 minutes, his team was able to wear Bellevue down.
“We had size, and our pressure started bothering them a little bit,” Smith said. “The girls were a little slow coming out, but I felt confident we’d wear them down and the pressure would start picking up, and it did.
“We felt comfortable because we have great leadership, a lot of seniors,” he added. “I was confident we’d get the job done. It’s not by how many points you win, it’s about trying to get to Columbus, so if we would have won by a point, I would have been happy.”
A year ago, the Rams fell to Clyde in the regional championship, but with much of the team returning from a year ago, and a roster with seven Div. I college recruits, Smith’s team was on a mission this season.
Rogers went through Clyde (24-2), Lima Bath (23-3) and Bellevue in the last three games to reach the Final Four for the first time.
“I’m very proud of them, because they went through some very tough teams to get here,” Smith said. “Every game we played from the district on was a battle against some very good teams, so I’m proud of the kids.”
Bellevue shot just 12-of-39 from the floor for the game, while Rogers countered at 22-of-50.
The Lady Red were paced by Santoro with 17 points and five rebounds, while Daniel added seven points and seven rebounds and Strayer scored nine points on three 3-pointers.
Santoro talked about the physical inside presence the Rams featured.
“Their guards are really quick, so you have to kind of drive and take it at them and go strong,” she said. “You just have to go in strong knowing you are going to take a foul, or take a shot.
“This just puts another thing in front of us, to use this season as motivation and to come back here next year and try to do something great again,” Santoro added.
Orshoski said the program has three strong pieces back in Shelby Stamm, Santoro and Strayer, but also lose quite a bit of production as well.
“We’ll return three girls who have started a lot of games, and this experience is definitely going to help them,” he said. “But we graduate six seniors that meant a whole lot and took this program to another level within the state, and they’ll be missed.”