After slow start, defending state champs advance in playoff opener.
HANOVERTON -- Coming off five consecutive difficult victories to end the regular season, the Ursuline High girls basketball team was aware of a possible letdown in the Division III tournament opener.
So it wasn't totally surprising that the Irish started slowly Saturday at United High.
Crestview kept pace with the Irish for about a dozen minutes, but a 12-0 surge midway through the second quarter launched Ursuline (18-3) to an easy 67-35 win.
Junior forward Tyra Grant was unstoppable for the Rebels (12-10), scoring 30 points in a little more than three quarters.
"She's so athletic, she jumps so well and has great one-on-one moves," Crestview coach Tanja Simione said. "We don't see a player like Tyra Grant in the Tri-County League."
Top seed Ursuline will play fourth-seeded Brookfield (16-6) Thursday at 7:30 p.m. in a district semifinal game. That winner will play the Mooney-Warren JFK winner (both unseeded) in the district final Saturday at 2 p.m.
Brookfield advanced to the district semifinals with a 63-52 victory over United.
Victories over Akron Hoban, West Branch and especially Boardman had Coach Sean Durkin's defending state champions soaring into the postseason.
After Monday's 48-45 win at Boardman, Durkin gave his team two days to rest up.
"We were certainly sluggish coming out," Durkin said. "We came off a couple of big wins last week and showed a little bit of an emotional hangover.
"But we played through it," Durkin said.
"And in the second half, we turned it up."
Ahead 34-20 at halftime, the Irish limited the Rebels to 15 points in the second half to cruise.
"Maybe we came in a little rusty but those were five hard-fought games," Grant said. "Once we got it going, we showed how to play Ursuline basketball."
Brianne Phillis' basket to open the second quarter had the Rebels trailing by just a point, 14-13.
Moments later, Ann Unkefer's 3-pointer and Chelsie McCall's bucket kept the Rebels within reach, 18-16.
Then the Irish turned up the heat of their pressure defense.
Grant and Vannessa Dickson scored two buckets apiece while Tiffani Miller contributed a basket and field goal in the 12-0 run.
Cierra Bennett scored 12 points while Dickson had eight points and seven rebounds.
Phillis led the Rebels with 18 points.
Even though their season ended, Simione had no regrets.
"We came in after two great days of practice," Simione said. "Our main goal was to take care of the ball and handle the pressure. At the start, we did.
"Our second goal was to have fun in this game against the defending state champs," Simione said, "and we did."
Brookfield 63, United 52
Ahead by a point at halftime, the Warriors pulled away with a 20-9 advantage in the third quarter.
"We were having a hard time getting good looks," United coach Matt Ziegler said of the pivotal quarter. "They were hitting some shots and playing nice defense."
Raquel Brenner and Morgan Bonekovic each scored 20 points for the Warriors while Rachel Pasquerilla had nine.
For the Eagles (13-9), Katy Miller scored 16 while Darlene Woolf, Ashley Bergman and Danielle Altenhof each had 10.