Lady Dragons use precision execution to beat McLane, advance to D-10semis
ERIE – Warren coach Lisa LaVan wouldn’t go so far as to say her team executed the game plan perfectly in Saturday’s District 10 Class 5A quarterfinal game against General McLane, but they were pretty darn close.
Margo Loutzenhiser scored 18 points, Rachel Wilson had 11 and the Lady Dragons played smothering defense en route to a 43-31 at the Prep-Villa Events Center.
“I wouldn’t say 100 percent because I always tell them you can never play a perfect game, but I thought that we executed the way we wanted to,” LaVan said. “We made them play the way we wanted to play and that was critical for us, no doubt.”
With the win, the Lady Dragons advance to play Slippery Rock in the semifinal round and assured themselves a minimum of two more games, with District 10 taking three teams to the state tournament.
Warren (12-11) had an early 10-point lead in the second quarter, but McLane quickly battled back. In fact, from late in the second quarter until early in the fourth, the Lady Dragons held the lead, but never by more than five points.
That all changed in a hurry, however.
With a 25-23 advantage, Loutzenhiser converted on a 3-point play in the waning moments of the third quarter to make it 28-23.
The Lady Dragons, sporting gold shoelaces in honor of Abbey Schmader, got the ball to open the fourth, and freshman Kelsey Stuart hit what may have been the biggest shot of the game, a corner 3 with 7:35 to go that made it an 8-point margin, a lead that GM (17-6) wasn’t able to put a dent in over the final 7-plus minutes.
“That 3 was huge. Jasper (Merenick) yelled ‘no’ and then it went in and I gave a 3 sign in his face,” LaVan joked.
“I yelled though, too. Time and time again, Kelsey steps up. What’s nice is she does a great job on offense, but she also does well on defense for us.”
Wilson saved her best for last as well, scoring seven of her 11 points as the Lady Dragons were pulling away in the fourth, while Autumn Hultberg iced the game with late free throws.
It was a game that was close most of the way, but always felt like Warren was in control, all thanks to that pinpoint game plan execution.
Both LaVan and Hultberg, her senior point guard, echoed similar thoughts on the value of being prepared and who was largely to thank for it.
“Coach Laura (Lucks) and my sister Alanna spent hours on film,” said Hultberg about the senior Lucks and her junior sister. Lucks has affectionately earned that title ‘coach’ from her teammates, and it’s obvious to see why. “I know Lisa spent hours on it too and they all met and talked about it and helped come up with a great game plan.”
The Lancers had a plan of their own, and that was to make life as difficult as possible for Loutzenhiser. They did a good job early in the game, as the talented junior was face-guarded often.
It was a slow start, but Gracie Wood connected on a jumper late in the first quarter to put Warren up 7-5, and they started to click offensively after that.
Loutzenhiser, who also had seven rebounds and four steals, scored six straight points to start the second quarter and Hultberg followed with a steal and layup to give Warren that early 10-point cushion, 15-5.
“They tried to shut Margo down, which most teams are going to do,” LaVan said. “Margo grinded it out and found a way to get to the hole and do what she does best. We’ve been working on face-guard stuff for a while. This isn’t’ our first rodeo; we knew that kind of stuff was going to come and we had to be ready for it. I give her credit – nothing came easy for her tonight.”
Hanna Pfeiffer and Kayle Sidel helped GM battle back, connecting on a pair of 3s and Sierra Seneta knocked down a jumper right before the half to make it a 21-17 game.
The Lady Dragons, however, did a great job on Seneta. GM’s leading scorer at 15.5 ppg. was held to just six, and picked up her fourth foul at the 4:06 mark of the third quarter on a heady play by Loutzenhiser, who, knowing Seneta had three, got her in isolation and drove the ball right at her.
Still, McLane stayed close until Stuart’s 3.
“I would say when Rach hit that free throw to make it 34-23,” Hultberg said when asked when she felt the game was in hand. “I wouldn’t say comfortable, but I thought we were in good shape.”
The win was significant for obvious reasons, but also in the fact that this was the round they were knocked out in last year. Also, the doubt that others outside the program have had because of a record that might not be ideal because of a brutally tough early season schedule, which hit right at the same time Hultberg was forced out of action for seven games with an injury.
“We really wanted this,” Hultberg, who also finished with four assists, said. “We know a lot of people doubt us because of our record. But we know within ourselves and within our program what we’re capable of.”
They now get a date with Slippery Rock in the semis (they beat Grove City 40-25), the same team that ended their season a year ago. That game will be at Meadville High School at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday.
Needless to say, familiarity won’t be an issue.
“Our goal right now is to get back to that championships game,” LaVan said. “We have a talented Slippery Rock team in front of us and a coach that watches a lot of film and will have a game plan for us. We’re going to have to do the same. It’s going to be exciting. It’s fun being back in the semis. Hopefully the town and students will get to that game on Wednesday and support the girls.”
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Lupole 0-0-0-0, Al. Hultberg 0-0-0-0, Wilson 5-1-2-11, Loutzenhiser 6-6-8-18, Au. Hultberg 2-3-4-7, Childress 0-0-0-0, Stuart 1-0-0-3, Citro 0-0-0-0, Wood 2-0-0-4, Totals 16-10-14-43
GENERAL MCLANE (31)
Campbell 0-0-0-0, McKissock 1-0-0-3, Pfeiffer 4-0-1-9, Seneta 3-0-0-6, Kaulis 2-1-2-5, Seidel 3-1-2-8, Steiner 0-0-0-0, Jay 0-0-0-0, Lamoreaux 0-0-0-0, Totals 13-2-5-31
Warren 7 14 7 15 – 43
General McLane 5 12 6
Three-point FGs: Warren (1) – Stuart; General McLane (3) – Seidel, McKissock, Pfeiffer