By Drew Terhall
DAYTON — The Tri-Village High School girls basketball team is moving on to the Division IV State Championship game at the University of Dayton Arena after defeating Berlin Hiland, 51-34, in the State semifinals.
Head coach Brad Gray said the team responded well to going through a gauntlet of challenges during the Regional stage and performed well.
“I thought our kids rose to the occasion. This is a group of kids that likes to take challenges. Our last couple of games have been a grind and then you get rewarded by playing one of the top teams in the history of the state. I thought their response today was really good,” Gray said.
The three-point shot was big for the Lady Patriots during the whole game. They were 7 for 17 in the game from deep. The three ball helped distance themselves from Berlin Hiland.
Everyone contributed on offense this time around. Six players registered at least two points during the game. Berlin Hiland was doing everything they can to try and not let senior Rylee Sagester beat them.
At halftime, Tri-Village had a 33-22 lead and Sagester was leading the team in points. Everyone stepping up helped Sagester do what she does best, score the ball.
The Lady Patriots were hustling for loose balls and were rewarded with second chances on offense. They locked down on defense and didn’t let up any easy shots.
By the time the fourth quarter rolled around, the Lady Patriots had a 45-32 lead and were chewing up clock to punch their ticket to the championship game.
Gray said the team is more than just Sagester and sometimes chuckles when teams go to a box and one to force the rest of the team to score. Seniors Morgan Hunt and Torie Richards have been a scoring threat all season long and made key baskets when their team needed one to keep Berlin Hiland out of reach.
Sagester said she has grown as a player to not let the extra attention on defense get to her. She went from a catch and shoot player to a more well rounded guard that can get her teammates in the right position to score the basketball.
Sagester had 22 points with four three-point shots made. Richards had eight points while Hunt and junior Bella Black each had seven points.
Gray said from the moment he became the head coach of the program, he wanted to speak the trips to the State championship into existence. He credited his earlier teams for making that dream a reality and inspiring his team back then to reach that same goal.
“Fortunately, we had some good groups coming through early in my career that set the tone. When you’re a young kid and you see kids accomplish big things like that it makes it believable. These guys were young kids at that time,” Gray said. “Torie had a sister on that team and Rylee was a little rascal. They were in the stands and watching that, fueled their fire to have an opportunity to do the same thing.”
For the players, they had this goal for a long time. They understand what this trip to the championship game not only means to themselves, but to the community.
“This has been our goal for four years now. To finally get there, it means a lot to do it our senior year,” Richards said.
“To beat Hiland in the semifinals, 11 years ago they beat us, to beat them and go is big for our community,” Sagester said.
The team will take on Toledo Christian back at UD Arena on Mar. 11 with tipoff at 2 p.m. They defeated Toledo Christian earlier in the season. Gray said he expects his opponent to be a different team and that he wants his team to almost forget their matchup from earlier in the season and focus on the here and now.
Contact Daily Advocate sports editor Drew Terhall at [email protected]