Loyola turned up the defensive pressure early, taking the Woodlawn Lady Knights out of their game plan, and the Lady Flyers cruised to a 56-41 District 1-4A finale on Friday night at Loyola.
The Loyola victory clinched second place in the league for the Lady Flyers (19-11, 8-2) and helped erase a surprising two-point loss to Huntington on Thursday night.
“That was a tough loss, so this was a good way to get back on the winning track tonight,” Loyola coach Kyle Tanner said. “We came out with a lot of intensity on defense, and I was especially proud we held them to nine points in the first half.”
Hoping to create a tie for second place and solidify their playoff chances, the Lady Knights (11-9, 6-4) needed to get off to a good start on Loyola’s home floor. But it didn’t happen. Loyola jumped in front 16-8 when the Woodlawn shooters found the bucket elusive.
“No passion,” Woodlawn coach Patrick Lindsey said shaking his head. “We just didn’t play with it. The will to win wasn’t there. And I really hate it for these seniors because they took it hard and are as close as any group I’ve had.”
Loyola sophomore Amber Smith was unstoppable in the open court and made her presence felt in the half-court offense as well with her deft passing. Leading the Lady Flyers in virtually every offensive category, the 5-foot-10 sophomore put up a game high 22 points while controlling the tempo.
Meanwhile, the Lady Knights were able to put just five points on the scoreboard in the first quarter, then saw that drop to four in the second. Their normally efficient 3-point shooting was left in the pits. With a 9-1 run to close the first half, the Lady Flyers led 25-9 at the break.
That was all the lead Loyola needed, since the teams played even in the third quarter and Woodlawn won the fourth by a point.
“In the second half, we let down mentally some, so we were glad Woodlawn wasn’t hitting early,” Tanner said.
It was senior recognition night for Loyola, which meant Tanner bid adieu to Suzanne Cooper, Reagan Henderson and Caroline Holloway. Holloway, a key component of Tanner’s offense, suffered an ACL tear a couple of weeks ago against Northwood. Woodlawn was led by seniors Amber Cook with 20 points and Rachel Elzie with 12.
Loyola is hovering around the 17-18 ranged in the LHSAA Power Ratings, so will likely start the 2014 state playoffs on the road, while Woodlawn at No. 26 should do the same.