McAuley players celebrate after winning the district championship over Centerville, Saturday, March 7.
Emily Vogelpohl is the poster girl for optimism.
Her McAuley team went into a Division I district championship game on Saturday at Harrison having lost at that stage each of the previous two seasons and in three of the last four.
The Mohawks were facing smoking-hot Centerville, which was 22-3 and riding a 16-game winning streak.
None of that mattered to Vogelpohl or her teammates, who parlayed a combination of balanced 3-point shooting and withering defensive pressure into a 57-39 win over the Elks.
“No, we’re not surprised,” said the 5-foot-9 senior guard, who made three of McAuley’s eight 3-pointers in 21 tries on her way to finishing with a game-high 19 points. “We came in here expecting to win. We executed to perfection.”
Sophomore guard Lexi Chrisman, one of six Mohawks to sink at least one 3-pointer, added 13 points and McAuley (22-3) harassed Centerville into a whopping 26 turnovers while committing just 13 to gain a measure of revenge after losing to the Elks in a 2013 district final.
The district championship is McAuley’s first since 2003, coach Dan Wallace said.
“I’m just so happy for the girls,” said Wallace, the former Colerain coach who’s in his second season with the Mohawks. “They’ve been here the last two years, and lost to Centerville two years ago and to the eventual state champion (Princeton) last year. We just want to keep building the program.”
The Mohawk seniors won the district title in their last shot.
“We finally got one,” said Vogelpohl, who came up with four steals, two more than Centerville logged as a team. “It’s an amazing feeling. Me and my friend – No. 13, Sydney Lambert (who logged a game-high seven assists) – have been talking about this since we were freshmen. Now that we’ve achieve it, it’s something special.”
McAuley, which finished the regular season tied for third in the Enquirer’s Division I coaches’ poll, will take an eight-game winning streak into a regional semifinal game on Wednesday at a site to be determined against the winner of Saturday’s finale between Enquirer poll-champion Lakota West, ranked ninth in the Associated Press Division I statewide poll, and Lebanon.
Vogelpohl scored four points and McAuley, capitalizing on an obvious advantage in quickness, forced nine Centerville turnovers while taking a 10-6 lead in the first quarter.
The Mohawks expanded their advantage to 16-8 early in the second quarter before the Elks tied it with an 8-0 run. McAuley responded with a 9-1 run before settling for a 25-22 halftime lead.
Centerville sophomore guard Jessica Cambrell ended the half by banking in a desperation 3-pointer from just inside the halfcourt line at the buzzer, but McAuley shook that off to open the third quarter 9-4 spurt. Centerville would get no closer than six points as the Mohawks kept up the pressure and pulled away.
They limited Shannon Coffee, Centerville’s powerful 6-5 senior center, to 15 points, and the Elks sank just three of their 13 3-point shots.
“We knew Shannon Coffee was a good player,” Volgelpohl said. “Every time she got the ball, we wanted to trap her from the weak side and box out. We knew if we got pressure on their guards that we could turn them over.”
McAuley (22-3) – Roll 1 0 3, Lambert 3 0 7, Lynch 1 1 4, Chrisman 5 2 13, Vogelpohl 6 4 19, Heidemann 1 0 3, Taphorn 1 0 2, Johnson 1 4 6. Totals: 19 11 57.
Centerville (22-4) – Harrison 1 1 4, Sullivan 1 0 3, Coffee 5 5 15, Kimbrell 1 0 3, Broner 1 1 3, Brazile 4 3 11. Totals: 13 10 39.
Halftime: McAuley, 25-22. 3-pointers: M 8 (Vogelpohl 3, Roll, Lambert, Lynch, Chrisman, Heidemann), C 3 (Harrison, Sullivan, Kimbrell).