Amanda Nero sparked the Rockets to their second straight Division IV title.
LIBERTY -- Amanda Nero knew just when to step up and take control for Lowellville High in its Division IV district championship game Saturday afternoon.
The senior guard scored 10 of her game-high 23 points in the fourth quarter and sparked the Rockets to a 57-42 victory over McDonald.
The Rockets (21-3) advanced to the regional tournament at Massillon Perry, where they will play either Kirtland or Ledgemont at 6:15 p.m. Thursday.
McDonald (15-9) made a game out of it for a while; in fact, the Blue Devils were within three points early in the final quarter.
The Blue Devils were trailing 40-26 late in the third quarter when they started their rally. Ashleigh Tondo scored the final five points of the third quarter and Amy Dolsak opened the final period with back-to-back 3-point goals to get McDonald to 40-37.
But then Nero took over, scoring eight straight points, including a 3-pointer and a three-point play, and the Rockets were back in control, 48-37, with 3:32 remaining to play and McDonald never got within double figures the rest of the way.
This will mark the second straight trip to the regional for the Rockets, who reached the regional final a year ago.
"Last year nobody really expected us to get that far," said Lowellville coach Tony Matisi. "This year everybody expected us to make it and it put a lot of pressure on these kids, but they answered it well."
Nero, who broke all of the school scoring records during her four years at Lowellville, said that last year's experience helped the team.
"We were here last year and we knew what to expect," she said. "The same goes for the regionals, we've been there and we know what it takes."
Nero said she wasn't surprised at the difficult time the Rockets had against McDonald.
"McDonald is a very good team and we knew that if we didn't play our game they would beat us," Nero said.
While Nero led the Rockets, she got good support from sophomore Kristen Pallozzi, who added 17 points, including four 3-point goals.
Tondo and Dolsak led the Blue Devils with 19 and 17 points, respectively.
McDonald coach Rob Hilbun praised his players.
"I'm proud of my girls, they played exceptionally hard out there, but Lowellville is a great team and we really needed our 'A' game today and it just wasn't there," Hilbun said.
"We got to within three points, but then they turned it on and we just couldn't keep up," he said.
Took early lead
The Rockets started out quickly hitting four straight 3-point goals, two by Nero to jump out to a 12-5 lead, but the Blue Devils cut it to one point 15-14 with a 9-3 run to end the quarter.
McDonald regain the lead 16-15 before the Rockets went on a 15-2 run and opened the game at 30-18. They led 30-22 at halftime.
Two 3-pointers by Pallozzi sparked a 10-4 run in the third quarter to put the Rockets ahead 40-26 before the Blue Devils made their final run.