Garaway doesn't look at background
The team's strength is defense; the Pirates hold opposing teams to 25 points per game.
By JOE SCALZO
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
YOUNGSTOWN -- When it comes to girls basketball, Northeast Ohio owns Division III.
A Northeast Ohio team has won the Div. III championship every year since 1998. The most notable, South Euclid Regina, has won it five times over that span. Ursuline won it two years ago.
It's an impressive streak.
Sugarcreek Garaway coach Scott Bardall hasn't paid any attention to it.
"This is my third chance to coach in the state tournament and I wouldn't waste 10 seconds fighting any perceptions with the kids," said Bardall, whose team will play the Irish in the Div. III state semifinals Thursday. "Who we play is relevant only to the scouting report. We're just trying to survive to play on Saturday."
Bardall led Garaway's boys team to a runner-up finish in 2003 and lost in the state semifinals as coach of the Orrville girls in 1993.
"I don't approach [the games] any differently," said Bardall, when asked about the differences between coaching boys and girls in the state tournament. "Our goal was to get here and now that we've reached that goal, we're trying to find a way to win.
"At the same time, you try to enjoy the opportunity to be part of this."
Bardall has gone 44-6 in two years with Garaway's girls team. His daughter, 5-foot-10 sophomore guard Laura Bardall, is the team's leading scorer with 15 points per game.
The Pirates, whose only losses came to Div. IV state semifinalist Berlin Hiland, can rotate as many as nine players, including five sophomores, but will likely only play seven against the Irish. Their strength is their defense -- the Pirates hold opposing teams to 25 points per game.
"I'd like to think we're aggressive on both ends," said Bardall. "How we play is kind of based on the opponent."
Garaway, which was ranked sixth in the final Associated Press poll, beat Ironton 47-42 in double overtime in the regional final.
"Each team had opportunities to win," said Bardall. "We made maybe one more good thing happen than bad and lived to play another day."
Ursuline's regional final wasn't quite as tough as expected after Garfield Heights Trinity knocked off Regina in the regional semifinals.
The Irish, who had played Regina in six of the last seven seasons, had scouted the Royals extensively leading up to the regional tournament.
"You kind of have to assume that [Regina will] be there," said Durkin. "Were we disappointed we didn't play them? I can't say that. My staff and I always say it's like you're 10 points down when you got off the bus because it says Regina across their jerseys."
Ursuline pulled away in the final minutes to beat Trinity 56-48 and will try to keep the Northeast regional's championship streak alive this weekend.
"Our regional is just a juggernaut," said Durkin. "I think we've certainly been tested, in the regional and in the regular season."
The Pirates know they have a tough test ahead of them.
"Ursuline is a very formidable opponent," said Bardall. "We have a lot of respect for them.
"But there's two more games and one of them is guaranteed. We have to play very well [to win]. Hopefully, we can do enough."