There was no turning point, per se, just a slow separation between unbeaten Smithville and United, which lost its Div. III regional semifinal, 45-29, Wednesday night at Cuyahoga Falls High School.
Tara Shaffter had 18 points and 13 rebounds for the Smithies, who beat United 49-40 at the same stage in 2009.
“It was the same type of game,” Smithies coach Mike Miller said.
“They’ve got good country kids who play hard and scrap and aren’t going to lay down,” said Miller, who said he knows where Hanoverton is because he started his teaching career in Alliance.
Smithville (25-0) was ahead by 16 at halftime, but United (21-4) came back within 10 at 29-19.
“We missed a bunny and putback at the buzzer that could have put us up 18, but they came back and got it down to 10,” Miller said.
Smithville made 15 goals and 10 of 18 free throws, while United made nine goals and 8-10 free throws.
Emily Zehentbauer led the Golden Eagles with 10 points.
“I don’t think the foul situation hurt us at all,” United coach Sam Mathias said in reference to Taylor Smith sitting at times before finishing with four fouls.
“We had shots, typically, that go in for us that didn’t go in for us tonight,” Mathias said. “In order to get to a state title game and win that you’ve got to have a good-shooting game most nights. You can’t have an off-night, especially against a team that’s ranked third in the division in the state. It was a bad night for us to go cold.”
Smithville’s coach thought his team did a good job controlling the boards by limiting United’s second shots.
“We were really concerned about that,” Miller said. “We’d only seen them once, but we did a lot of research and found out that they’re a really good rebounding team. They’re very aggressive on the boards and go to the glass and we emphasized that hard for two days. How well we controlled the boards would be a big key in the ball game.”
Miller pointed out another area in which Smithville’s defense shut down United.
“We knew that they [offensively] attack the ball off the dribble very well, so we had to keep the ball out of the paint. Sometimes we got a little too much help and we gave up some good looks and United knocked down some threes. But that’s why they’re here: they’re a good ballclub.”
Mathias said the game was a great experience for the girls.
“We lose three fabulous seniors — Taylor Smith, Ruth Prosko, Preslee Johnson — who helped us get to the point and I think the younger players are going to appreciate this and, hopefully, work hard to get us back here and be on the other end next year.”