Lady Dragons seek to extend season in D-10 quarterfinals vs. McLane

Warren’s Gracie Wood (3) puts up a shot over a Southwestern defender during the second quarter of their game at Warren Area High School, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018. Wood had 10 points as the Dragons defeated the Trojans, 62-54.

The Warren Lady Dragons embark on what they hope is a lengthy playoff run when they square off with General McLane at the Prep-Villa Events Center today (5:30 p.m.) in the District 10 Class 5A quarterfinals.

They are playing with the intention of adding to a rich basketball legacy, but also for so much more. They are playing for the soul of a beautiful young lady who was taken from this world far too soon.

Abbey Schmader, a 17-year old Sheffield student, passed away this week after a courageous battle with cancer. The Lady Dragons will be dedicating the game in her honor and each player will be wearing gold shoelaces.

“One of our big focuses and something we’ve been pressing on them is ‘play today.’ You’re not promised tomorrow,” said Warren coach Lisa LaVan. “They want to play for Abbey, and they wanted to do the gold shoelaces for her. She didn’t go to school hear, but she’s part of the Warren County School District. Her bravery and everything she did is absolutely amazing.

“We talk a lot about life lessons and do a lot of reflecting. This is just something you don’t ever want to reflect on. Unfortunately it’s a part of life you have to deal with. Everyone knows that cancer sucks and everyone can relate in some way, shape or form. To lose a kid that young …. she was amazing. Her footprint will be felt forever. We always tell them to ‘leave a legacy’ and Abbey left a great one.”

On the court, the Lady Dragons, after starting the season 1-8, have gone 10-3 in their last 13 games.

They are led offensively by a pair of talented guards – junior Margo Loutzenhiser and senior Autumn Hultberg.

Loutzenhiser is the third leading scorer in District 10, averaging 19.9 ppg. and she went over the 1,000 career point mark in their regular season finale, a 62-54 win over a Southwestern team that was 18-1.

Hultberg, who missed some time this season with an ankle injury, is second on the team in scoring at 9.1 ppg. and impacts the game in multiple ways.

Rachel Wilson often draws the assignment of the opposing teams best big, and she has been phenomenal defensively this season, as has Ceci Citro.

Senior Mogan Lupole, juniors Alanna Hultberg and Gracie Wood, sophomore Taylor Childress and freshman Kelsey Stuart have all played key roles in the backcourt this season, and all five are capable of having a big game.

McLane, meanwhile, is led by a feisty junior guard, 5-8 Sierra Senta, who averages 15.5 ppg.

“Sierra Senta’s a nice little ballplayer,” LaVan said. “They have a couple of pretty good shooters. They push, they get after it, they like to win 50-50 battles and be scrappy. In my mind, the biggest thing is going to be being scrappy back, winning the 50-50s and getting after the boards.”

The Lancers, who come in with a record of 17-5, are a guard-oriented group and are also led by Hanna Pfeiffer (9.7 ppg.), Kendyl McKissock (7.6 ppg.) and Rachel Kaulis (5.8 ppg.).

Warren, which scrimmaged Kane on Thursday, has had eight days off, but that pales in comparison to GM, which hasn’t played in 16 days.

“Surprisingly, after doing this for 10 years, you get used to it,” LaVan said. “This is how its always been for us. I’ll count my blessings because I’ll take eight days over 16 any time. It was good, it helped us. We had the bug going through, so it was nice to get healthy.”

For Warren, they are seeking to get back to where they were two years ago, which was a District 10 championship. Today, they will play in a gym where they achieved that feat.

It’s a team that won their first round game over Grove City last season before falling to Slippery Rock in this same quarterfinal round. A win today would guarantee them at least two more games, as District 10 will take three teams from Class 5A to the state playoffs.

“It’s a nice facility and obviously we’ve had some success there,” LaVan said. “They want it. They’re ready to go.”

And of course, they’ll be playing for more than just themselves and those who came before them.

“Every time we step on the floor is a gift,” LaVan said. “Sometimes that gets lost and not pressed upon them. Every day you wake up is a gift. Certainly every day you get to step on the floor, be with your teammates, be with your family and do what you love, it’s a gift. It’s a gift for me to coach them and dedicating a game to someone like Abbey is awesome.”