The Bulldogs dropped a 52-47 decision to the two-time defending Div. III state champ.
By BRIAN RICHESSON
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
POLAND -- The South Euclid Regina girls basketball team might be vulnerable. Poland is on the rise.
Those were the messages that came out of Saturday's game, won by Regina 52-47 at Poland High.
Regina (15-5), two-time defending Division III state champion and the fourth-ranked team this week, was pushed to the limit against the upset-minded Bulldogs, who made a statement for their upcoming Div. II tournament at Fitch.
"We can play with anybody in our district," Poland coach Jamie Dunn said. "That's what we just talked about. Now that the new season starts, the only difference is it's one [loss] and out."
Had chance: Trailing 49-47, the Bulldogs (14-6) had an opportunity to tie the score with 15 seconds remaining, but senior Julie Gallo's shot from inside rimmed out, and the Royals sealed their victory at the foul line.
Senior Sarah Burgess, a 5-foot-10 guard headed to Division I South Carolina, scored a game-high 20 points to spark Regina, but her teammates lacked the same desire, Coach Pat Diulus said.
"Our other players didn't step up, and I'm really concerned about that," Diulus said. "If we meet up with somebody like Ursuline in the regional, there's no way we can play with them. Ursuline is much better than us right now."
Erased early: If there were any doubt that Poland could compete with Regina, it was erased early. The Bulldogs, with a senior-laden starting lineup, scored the final six points of the first quarter to take a 17-12 lead.
"The way our four seniors stepped on the floor in the beginning gave us momentum," said Dunn, referring to Tiffany Fonagy, Emily Patton, Angela Blangero and Gallo, the latter having a team-high 15 points and 10 rebounds.
After the first quarter, the teams exchanged leads five more times throughout the game.
"Poland came really focused to win this game," Diulus said. "They executed very well, and obviously we did not."
Lead for good: Regina gained the lead for good during a key stretch late in the third quarter. Burgess hit two 3-pointers and junior Siedah Williams scored on a put-back, as Regina snapped a tie to take a 41-36 lead into the fourth quarter.
"If it wasn't for [Burgess], we would have lost this game by 15, 20 points," Diulus said. "She came down and just willed the game to Regina. She was a one-person wrecking ball when it mattered, and that's what turned the game around."
The Royals built their lead to seven points early in the fourth quarter before Poland made one final run, cutting its deficit to 47-45 and 49-47 with 1 minute, 8 seconds to play.
"We had opportunities in that game to tuck it in, and we didn't," Dunn said. "We fought back and had a chance to win it in the end."
Sophomore Simone Redd, who added 15 points for Regina, missed the front end of a one-and-one with 58 seconds remaining, and Poland, still trailing 49-47, grabbed the rebound.
Rimmed out: After the ball was knocked out of bounds with 18 seconds remaining, Poland junior Kristy Gaudiose in-bounded to Gallo underneath the basket. That's when Gallo's shot rimmed out, and Regina junior Stacey Little was fouled.
Little made the first free throw for a 50-47 lead, and she missed the second, but Williams rebounded as the Royals maintained possession to end the game.
"This gave us a tremendous dose of reality, and we needed that," Diulus said of Poland, which also got 13 points from junior Taryn Carlson and 12 from Gaudiose.