ALLIANCE -- The Boardman High girls basketball team enjoyed a perfect start against their rival in the Division I district final.
And then the Spartans enjoyed an even better finish.
Coach Ron Moschella's Spartans rallied from six points down in the fourth quarter to force overtime against top-seeded North Canton Hoover.
In two extra sessions, the second-seeded Spartans pitched a shutout against the Vikings, winning 55-47 to earn their 13th regional trip in 24 years.
"I'm ecstatic -- I can barely even talk," senior center Jessica Moore said after the Spartans (20-3) won their first district title since 2001. "It's awesome -- everyone told us we couldn't so that's the best part of all."
Schiffhauer leads way
Freshman guard Courtney Schiffhauer scored 18 points, including three clutch free throws in the second overtime.
"She's amazing to have that kind of poise and step up as a freshman," said Moore after scoring 12 points and getting six rebounds. "She actually won that game for us."
Moschella said, "We did a lot of clearing out for the freshman because we thought of the size matchup we could take advantage of that, and she did.
"They were in such pressure defense where they were denying our big people Jessie and April [Melquist] that when [Schiffhauer] went to the basket there wasn't any helpside," Moschella said.
"Someone said she didn't realize she was in a big game -- probably the best game she ever played."
Open with 10-0 lead
The Spartans began the game afire as junior point guard Colleen Mallis hit two 3-pointers and Schiffhauer drove for a pair of baskets for a 10-0 lead in the first 2:20.
Then the Vikings (18-5) -- three-time defending district champions --showed why they are so highly regarded even after losing twice to the Spartans in Federal League play.
Senior center Sahar Nusseibeh scored six of her 16 points as the Vikings posted a 16-0 run. After Boardman's strong start, the Vikings scored 21 of the game's next 23 points and led at halftime, 23-17.
"It was hard going into halftime knowing we had been up 10-0 and they had come back on us," Moore said. "It meant we had to dig that much deeper."
The Spartans battled back. Two more 3-pointers by Mallis in the third quarter cut Hoover's lead to 31-29. Free throws by Moore tied the score.
But two baskets from underneath by Nusseibeh restored a four-point cushion that the Vikings would nurse for most of the fourth quarter.
Trailing 45-39 with two minutes to go, Schiffhauer rebounded the ball and passed to set up Mallis for another 3-pointer.
All tied up
After Amber Witt's layup put the Vikings ahead 47-42, Schiffhauer scored two baskets and a free throw to tie the game.
Because of foul trouble to Nusseibeh and freshman forward Brittany Orban (12 points, eight rebounds), the Vikings stalled for 90 seconds then lost the ball to Moore. The Spartans missed the only shot of the first overtime.
"When they went into that stall, we didn't know what to do," Moschella said. "I'm asking the coaches, the fans, the janitor -- anybody. If we go after them, they have such a great guard [Witt] that can dribble-penetrate that she would eat us alive. So we waited a little bit and then went into a trapping defense."
Mallis scored the first bucket of the second overtime on a layup. Two free throws by Mallis and Schiffhauer and one by Moore sealed the win.
Tuesday at 8 p.m., Boardman will play the Perry tournament winner at the Canton Civic Center.
"It's just so exciting to show everyone who didn't believe in us that we could get this far," Schiffhauer said.