By TED RADICK
for the review times
ELIDA — There’s a reason basketball coaches like to depend on their seniors.
Carey coach Phil Vaughn leaned on his Thursday night, and the result was a 44-39 victory over New Riegel in a Division IV regional semifinal at the Elida Fieldhouse.
Senior Ali Rymer scored 25 points and classmate Hannah Draper had six assists on the night and two key free throws late in the fourth quarter as the Blue Devils (23-2) advanced to Saturday’s 7:30 p.m. regional final at Elida against Holgate (22-4), which downed 11th-ranked Convoy Crestview 54-46 in Thursday night’s other semifinal. New Riegel finished its season 22-3.
Rymer was a force throughout the game; she scored a dozen points in the first half as Carey built a lead and finished 9 of 12 from the floor and 7 of 10 from the free-throw line.
“She wants the basketball,” Vaughn said. “That’s what you need. We have a pretty experienced team, and when she wants the basketball the kids feel that.
“When she was hot, they were getting her touches.”
Late in the game, after the Blue Jackets rallied from a 10-point deficit early in the fourth quarter to close the gap to 39-37 with a minute to play, Rymer hit three free throws to keep the Blue Devils ahead.
Rymer and the Blue Devils took advantage of a couple of holes in the New Riegel lineup to forge ahead in the first half. A 16-4 edge in the second quarter gave Carey the comfort margin it needed when New Riegel turned up the heat down the stretch.
New Riegel was without standout point guard Kara Scherger, who turned an ankle in practice Tuesday and was ruled out for the game earlier Thursday.
“We were healthy all year; it was a freak thing,” New Riegel coach Steve Lucius said. “It happened Tuesday right before the end of practice. We were just getting ready to wrap up. She’s never turned an ankle before, but she turned one good.
“We tried all kinds of things, but the medical people said no, she can’t go.”
Six-foot New Riegel center Lauren Ladd went to the bench, saddled with two fouls, with just more than a minute left in the first quarter. New Riegel led 11-8 at that point, but Carey smelled blood in the water.
“I felt like being in the post, it was an advantage for me,” the 5-foot-9 Rymer said. “Ladd’s a little bit taller than me; she can block my shots. (Taylor) Kirian (at 5-8) can kind of block my shots, but not as much.”
A Rymer layup gave Carey a 15-14 lead midway through the second quarter. It was a lead the Blue Devils never gave up.
That layup spurred a 13-0 Carey run and the Blue Devils led 26-16 at the half.
“She picked up a couple of cheap early fouls and hardly played the first half, and that really hurt us. No doubt,” Lucius said of Ladd’s foul trouble.
Sydney Wentling’s 3-pointer late in the third period put Carey up 35-23, and the Blue Devils looked comfortable. Maybe, Vaughn said, too comfortable.
“If you just relax a little bit thinking Kara’s not out there, it hurts you,” he said. “The other New Riegel kids that took her place played well.”
Kirian hit four straight free throws and the Blue Jackets began to get back into the game. Taylor Arbogast, who finished with 16 points and six rebounds, had a pair of baskets in the fourth quarter and Kirian, who also ended up with 16 points, went 6 of 6 from the line in the fourth quarter.
“It was just a little too much to overcome against a really good team,” Lucius said.
Rymer hit a free throw to make it 40-37 with 46 seconds left, and Carey got a defensive stop on New Riegel’s next possession. Draper hit two free throws for Carey with 25 seconds left, yet a late Arbogast layup kept it a one-possession game at 42-39 with 16 seconds left.
Finally, Rymer iced the game by knocking down both ends of a double bonus with eight seconds remaining.
“It’s incredible,” Vaughn said. “I told the girls, there’s only eight teams that get to go to practice tomorrow and get ready for Saturday night. I just preach confidence. We had a couple of players that might have had off nights and are down on themselves. There’s no reason to be down. We’re a team going to regional finals.
“I think maybe our best basketball could be ahead of ourselves.”
Wentling had eight points for Carey. Logan Johnson matched Rymer with seven rebounds.
Arbogast had four steals and three assists for New Riegel.
“We fell just a little short, but we gave it our best,” she said. “Nobody gave up, that’s for sure.”
NEW RIEGEL (39)
Arbogast 7-0–16, Kirian 3-10–16, Theis 2-0–4, Noftz 1-0–2, Zoeller 0-1–1. TOTALS: 13-33 11-15 — 39.
Rymer 9-7–25, S. Wentling 3-0–8, Draper 1-2–5, Johnson 2-0–4, M. Wentling 1-0–2. TOTALS: 16-42 9-12 — 44.
New Riegel 12 4 11 12 — 39
Carey 10 16 9 9 — 44
3-Point GOALS: New Riegel 2-8 (Arbogast 2); Carey 3-11 (S. Wentling 2, Draper).
rebounds: New Riegel 19 (Arbogast 6); Carey 29 (Rymer, Johnson 7).
turnovers: New Riegel 18; Carey 15.