Making history: Warren girls beat McDowell for first-ever District 10 championship
ERIE Warren coach Lisa LaVan has posed this question to her team many times over the past week: What is your legacy going to be?
The answer? Winning the first District 10 championship in program history.
Behind the effort of a stellar defensive performance, the Lady Dragons beat McDowell 35-30 in the D-10 Class AAAA title game Saturday afternoon at the Prep/Villa Events Center, earning their place in the history books.
“This is for everyone everyone before us and everyone coming up next,” said senior guard D.J. Hahn, who scored a game-high 11 points.
After two close losses to the Lady Trojans in the regular season, Warren was able to get over the hump when it mattered the most, and it began and finished on the defensive end.
Junior Maddie Loutzenhiser set the tone early with a pair of first quarter steals and Rachel Wilson sealed it late.
After leading by nine, 29-20 with 3:55 to play, McDowell responded with a huge rally and cut the deficit to 31-30 after a three-pointer by Ally Dillman with 1:10 left.
“I thought it was a seven-point lead, but my assistant coach assured me it was a nine-point lead,” LaVan, who is in her eighth season as head coach, said. “It felt a little bit more comfortable, but I kept telling them and they kept telling each other that it’s not over, we still have a lot more game to play, so let’s take a deep breath and let’s go. I was trying not to overwhelm them with too much information as I’m getting bounced with information. We were just trying to breathe and make sure we were all together and taking care of it.”
After Dillman’s 3-pointer, Warren (20-4) turned the ball over on and it looked like it may be a case of from the regular season, as Katie Redinger had a shot at the other end for the lead that bounced off the back of the rim.
Hahn collected the rebound and was fouled, going to the line for a 1-and-1. She made the all-important first one, but missed the second.
Redinger again had a shot at the other end, this time to tie the game, but it was no good.
Hahn collected the rebound and was fouled with 13 seconds left. Once again, she made 1-of-2, making the score 33-30.
McDowell (20-3) once again had a shot to tie the game, except that they didn’t, because they never got another shot off. Fran Sicari raced down the court, drove to the corner and attempted to shoot a three. Wilson was there, however, snatching the ball away before Sicari could get a shot up.
She was fouled with three seconds left and calmly sank both free throws with three seconds left, ending what was a wild final minute.
“I was kind of nervous,” Wilson said of the final play.
She didn’t look it, that’s for certain, and she set off a celebration that has been years in the making.
“I told them in the locker room, ‘I want to know if anyone has any doubts,'” LaVan said. “As soon as that ball went up, I don’t know what it was, but I just knew we were going to do it. I truly did. I knew I had a great team. These guys have been working hard, they’re close and they push each other. This is really awesome.”
Right from the get go it was apparent that the game was going to take a tone of a defensive slugfest, much like the regular season meetings.
Neither team led by more than three in the first half. In fact, neither team led by more than three until late in the third quarter, as the lead changed hands six different times.
That changed with under a minute to go in the third, however. Leading 22-20, Lizzy Marsh took a great feed from from Margo Loutzenhiser and converted, getting fouled in the process. She sank the free throw, making it 25-20.
That was part of a 9-0 run for Warren that turned out to be the difference in the game.
“The game goes kind of dull after that,” LaVan admitted. “That was clutch.”
Both offensively and defensively, it was a total team effort.
Margo Loutzenhiser, just a freshman, had a trio of clutch second-half assists, including the one to Marsh, while Paige Wilson, who along with Hahn joined the 1,000-point club this season, had a key bucket with 3:30 to go that made it 31-23.
“I think our defense has really been evolving all year,” LaVan said. “Obviously, I don’t think we were as great defensively at the beginning of the year as we are now. We came into this season really focused on the defensive side. We were able to make a lot of great in-game adjustments. McDowell came in with some different things and we were able to make those adjustments and find a way.”
With a District 10 title now in hand, the Lady Dragons will now look for more history, as they seek the first state playoff win in program history.
They will get that opportunity on Friday, as they face District 7’s (WPIAL) third-place team, Pine-Richland.
That game will be back at the Prep-Villa Events Center at 6 p.m.
Hahn 2-5-8-11, Mad. Loutzenhiser 1-1-3-3, R. Wilson 0-2-4-2, P. Wilson 4-1-1-9, Marsh 2-3-3-7, Mar. Loutzenhiser 1-1-2-3, Wortman 0-0-0-0, Totals 10-13-21-35
Fromknecht 2-4-4-8, Dillman 2-1-2-6, Lewis 1-2-2-4, Sicari 2-0-0-4, Redinger 0-3-6-3, Heintzel 1-1-1-3, Christiansen 1-0-0-2, Zimmer 0-0-0-0, Elwell 0-0-0-0, Totals 9-11-15-30
Warren 6 9 10 10 35
McDowell 8 7 5 10 30
Three-point FGs: Warren (2) Hahn (2); McDowell (1) Dillman