St. Marys Finishes As District Runner-Up

St. Marys' seniors, from left, Ally Will, Lauren Cisco and Carly Caywood celebrate with the blue and gold faithful after being handed the Division II district runner-up trophy on Saturday at Paulding High School.
Sports Editor

Napoleon wasn’t always this good.

From 2013-2017, its girls basketball program struggled to get out of the sectional round, now three years later, the program is a powerhouse.

And there’s a lot of St. Marys in that Napoleon team too.

The Wildcats clinched their third straight Division II district crown and taught a humble lesson to St. Marys in a 63-16 victory on Saturday at Paulding High School.

That lesson: Your day will come, trust us.

“That's a great team,” Roughriders coach Jon Burke said. “They shot lights out and if they don’t win state I would be shocked. That team can shoot and are aggressive and disruptive.

“Our seniors have taken this program to another level and I threw the sophomore in there too because they were you know as freshmen they came in and really made a difference, but Ally Will, Carly Caywood and Cisco we're part of this program as sophomores when we were happy to be at sectional final let alone win one sophomore year. We've finally won a sectional title for the first time in nine years now we've won three straight. Under their leadership, I feel like our program continues to improve and a lot of things that you don't see on the floor to taking kids to practice on time, reminding people where they need to be for open gyms, waking them up at our Cedarville team camp and making sure they get to breakfast on time.

“They're not measurable. Those seniors have done that for us as a program and I feel like they're leaving us in really good hands. We've got some really good leadership coming up as well. And that's the thing when what's your legacy what have you left? We're in really good shape because of what they've done for our program.”

Napoleon (25-0) shot 46.6% (14-of-30) from the field in the first half, including making its first three straight shots to open the game with an 8-0 lead. St. Marys’ (19-6) first basket was from Lauren Cisco 1:46 into the game but Napoleon scored the next six points to lead 14-2 as the Wildcats connected on six of their first eight shot attempts.

A 9-of-16 mark from the field and seven defensive rebounds limited the Roughriders to just six points at the end of the opening quarter down 23-6.

Napoleon scored all 15 points in the second quarter, limited St. Marys to 0-of-8 from the field for its first shutout in a quarter since against New Knoxville back in December to trail 38-6 at the half, the team’s largest deficit this season.

“When you go into a locker room, you're down 38-6 at the half, you have to get yourself motivated to come back out,” Burke said. “All year we've been playing for each other, we've been having fun playing this game that we love and that's why we do it. And so, That was kind of our message coming back out. We want to try to show that we can play with a team like this, but more importantly, enjoy these last 16 minutes.”

St. Marys was shut out from the field again in the third quarter, but eclipsed 10 points on a Kendall Dieringer 3-pointer with 2:45 remaining in the final stanza.

Regardless of the score, this team had a special season.

They overcame a 3-4 start to the season and ripped off 12 wins in a row, finishing the season with wins in 17 of its final 19 games.

The 19 wins this season is the most by any St. Marys team since notching 22 during the 2003-04 season. The Riders won their third straight sectional title, becoming the first team to do so in three consecutive years since 2001-04 and earned their first district tournament win since the 2003-04 season on the way to the program’s first district runner-up trophy since 2004.

For a program that won nine games in a three-year period to now, it has come a long way with a bulk of talent still in school.

I hope so, that's our goal,” Burke said when asked if he believed St. Marys could be like Napoleon. “We feel like this year we could have we played with O-G, we had a chance to beat them [but] it go away from us, we had a shot with Bath, let Wapak and Defiance slip away but those are games we've got to learn from and get better from.”

“We've got a starter season better next year. We've got big games right away against really good teams and this year we responded really well, but can we get out ahead of that and have a really good offseason figure out our roles a little bit sooner.”

Seniors Ally Will, Carly Caywood and Cisco played their final game in a Roughriders uniform but led a program to its first sectional title in nine years and its first district runner-up trophy and district win in nearly 20 years.

“Our expectations have definitely risen because of this season and they should have,” Burke added. “These girls play hard, they work really well together they play for each other. So we’ve got to have that continue if they continue doing the things we're doing. Who knows?”

Who knows. Maybe this time next year, the storyline will be about a regional berth instead.