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Eyeing A Repeat

Another championship in reach for Lady Dragons

Photo courtesy of Mark Evans From left, Emma Ruhlman, Riley Childress, Halle Kuzminski and Sammie Ruhlman celebrate during Warren’s District 10 5A playoff semifinal win over Grove City at the Prep-Villa Hagerty Events Center. The Lady Dragons will play for the D10 title against Slippery Rock at 4 p.m. today at Meadville High School.

Warren’s girls basketball team will attempt to win its third District 10 5A championship in four years on Saturday. The Lady Dragons (18-6) will take on Slippery Rock (14-8) — in a rematch of last season’s D10 final — at 4 p.m. at Meadville High School.

One of the most exciting endings to a District 10 championship game took place at Warren Area High School last year as the Dragons beat Slippery Rock, 40-39.

It was one of the biggest of 14-year head coach Lisa LaVan’s 228 career wins, especially with three daughters on the team.

“It has been fun! Love them all like my own, but extra special having my three girls with me,” said LaVan. “Not going to lie, pretty stressful at times, too.”

Division II Hillsdale College commit Emma Ruhlman was fouled at the final buzzer on a desperation 3-pointer. She made all three free throws to give the Dragons the thrilling win.

The senior Ruhlman has amassed 1,416 career points and 873 rebounds and Warren’s other senior, Division 2 Wesleyan College commit Riley Childress, has 1,324 career points and 340 assists. They are the winningest girls basketball class in Warren history.

“For Ry and Emma, it has always been about the love for the game,” said LaVan. “A love that is very different for both of them. For Ry, it has been about the competition and about playing the games. I still remember her in practice — at the age of 8 — asking when we were going to play games. She just wanted to go, go, go. For Emma, it is the love she has for the process. She has always been a goal-oriented kid that dedicates herself to the process. Those two different loves have gotten them to where they are today. Two different approaches that have given them and our program great success. I have said to them and to others… alone, they would have most certainly scored more points and would have gotten more individual recognition, but together they have helped take this program to new heights. What an amazing selfless accomplishment.”

Warren has won three D10 titles and been to states four times since 2016. Warren’s second district championship came when Ruhlman and Childress were freshmen starters.

“(WAHS’ all-time leading scorer) Margo (Loutzenhiser) was a great leader for them when they were freshmen,” said LaVan. “Alanna (Hultberg) and Sierra (Matson) were also great leaders. That is what we do in this program. We take care of each other and lead each other. Just like their seniors did for them… when their time is done as a Lady Dragon, Emma and Ry will pass the torch and the next group will carry it.”

Emma Ruhlman is averaging 15.5 points a game this season and Childress 14.3 points. Sophomore Sammie Ruhlman is scoring 5.1 points a game with 16 3-pointers, junior Gracie Ruhlman 4.4, freshman Alana Stuart 3.0, and Halle Kuzminski 2.6. It’s their defense — 32.3 points per game in 24 games — where is starts.

“They know it leads to offense,” said LaVan. “They never back down because there is a love and belief in each other that, no matter what, they will persevere.”

Bronwyn McCoy leads Slippery Rock with 9.2 points per game, while Chatham commit Ella McDermott is scoring 8.5 and Gianna Bedel 8.2.

“Slippery Rock is a much different team from last year, but another very good team,” said LaVan. “They will be ready for us. They are very well coached and start five seniors.”

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