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Lady Dragons claim second D10 title in a row

Repeat

Photo courtesy of Mark Evans Warren’s girls basketball team won its second straight District 10 5A championship, defeating Slippery Rock, 46-34, on Saturday at Meadville High School. The Lady Dragons, posing with its student cheering section, will host Oakland Catholic in the PIAA first round at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Warren Area High School.

MEADVILLE — It was Slippery Rock that took a desperation 3-pointer at the end of the game this time.

It didn’t matter.

There was no heart-pounding finish in the Warren girls basketball team’s 46-34 District 10 5A championship win on Saturday over the Rockets at Meadville High School.

The Dragons have won back-to-back D10 titles and it was Warren’s third in four years — the third in four years for senior standouts Emma Ruhlman and Riley Childress.

It was Ruhlman who was fouled on a desperation 3-pointer at the buzzer a season ago, and who swished the first, then second, then third free throw with no time on the clock for a 40-39 win over Slippery Rock in a memorable D10 title game.

Photo courtesy of Mark Evans Warren’s girls basketball team won its second straight District 10 5A championship, defeating Slippery Rock, 46-34, on Saturday at Meadville High School. Lady Dragons include, from left, in front, Halle Kuzminski, Gracie Ruhlman, Emma Ruhlman, Riley Childress, Sammie Ruhlman, and Emily Davidson and, in back, Sienna Winkle, Emily Foster, Alana Stuart, Caitlin Barney, Alyssa Farr, Lindsay Madigan, Paris Sivak, and Paula Braine.

Saturday’s rematch with Slippery Rock wasn’t close, but just as emotional for 14-year Warren head coach Lisa LaVan.

“The emotions… very hard to put into words since I have the emotions as a coach and a mom,” said LaVan, whose three daughters — Emma Ruhlman, junior Gracie Ruhlman and sophomore Sammie Ruhlman — play for the team. “I am so proud of this team and this program. We put in the work year after year and it shows on the court. It is a process and we know that. We spend the off-season traveling and seeking out competition, but we also spend the off-season working on our fundamentals and weight training. Amazing to see the hard work pay off. As a mom, just amazing. Two titles in the two years I had my three girls here. To see them grow up in this program is pretty awesome.

“Emma, Gracie and Sammie took a backseat at times as I worked to build this program,” said LaVan. “So amazing to see them be here with me now and to do what we have done together and with their teammates. The joy on their faces warms my heart and will live with me forever.”

The season isn’t over. In fact, the top three teams in the D10 5A tournament have advanced to states. Warren won the D10 title last season at Warren Area High School, and now gets the chance to host a PIAA 5A playoff game there in the first round. Warren (19-6) will take on District 7’s sixth-seeded Oakland Catholic (14-10) at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

First, the Lady Dragons had to get by Slippery Rock in the title game for the second straight year.

“What a total team effort by our crew led by two awesome seniors,” said LaVan. “Words will never describe what Emma and Ry have done for this program.”

Riley Childress, who will play at Division 2 Roberts Wesleyan beginning in the fall, scored six of her game-high 15 points in a 13-9 Warren first quarter.

Warren’s physical and tenacious defense — even with Emma Ruhlman having two early fouls — led to a 14-6 second quarter for a double-digit halftime lead.

With Warren slowing down the offensive tempo in the second half, and Slippery Rock defenders, chasing Childress and Ruhlman beyond the perimeter, Alana Stuart hit five field goals underneath for 10 points from the second quarter on.

“Another team effort by our scout team in practice, too,” said LaVan. “All 14 girls contributed to this win… trust me.”

Childress passed Jaimie Eaton for fifth all-time on the Lady Dragons’ scoring list with 1,339 career points.

With teams attempting to keep Childress and Emma Ruhlman out of the scoring column, Emma still contributed 10 points and 11 rebounds in the win. Ruhlman has 1,426 career points, just behind former standouts Julie McChesney (1,436) and Nikki Bailas (1,430), second and third all-time, respectively.

Ironically, McChesney and Bailas did it as teammates, too, just not all four years together.

Childress and Emma Ruhlman have combined for a 80-23 record together in four years.

“It’s extremely special to know that I have a whole new chapter of a basketball career that is going to start soon and I am beyond excited to go play in college,” said Ruhlman, who will play at Division 2 Hillsdale College in Michigan. “It’s bittersweet that someday I won’t get to wear my Dragons jersey anymore, but I can’t wait to go start a new career and accomplish even better things. I feel that I have done my job as a leader on this team all four years and I hope any of my teammates that have been a part of that can watch me lead by example and carry the torch that way. Give it your all every practice, game, scout, lift, whatever, and have a chip on your shoulder because you are a part of the Warren Lady Dragon basketball family. That’s what I think I have given my teammates and I hope they continue to lead this program like that in the years to come.”

Childress said some sadness will come with leaving the program, but “the group we have really respects us and always strives for perfection so it makes it easy being a leader on the team. They will do a great job next year.”

Junior Gracie Ruhlman has been mentored well.

“The past three years have meant so much to me,” said Gracie. “I have made some of the best memories with my sisters and my mom throughout the seasons. Each of us put in so much work in the off-season so we can play to our full potential. In the past, we all knew that when the three of us were finally playing on the court together with our other teammates, we would come together and become one of the best teams to go through the program. I love my sisters — even when we are bickering at each other — and I love how much work my mom puts into our team. When Emma goes off to play college ball, Sammie and I will continue forward to help lead our team to another D10 title, along with our other amazing teammates. Overall, the past three years with my sisters has been one heck of a ride. I’m upset that it’s coming to an end, but I’m just glad I got to experience it all. Things like this don’t happen often!”

Either do state playoff games at your own high school.

“I think it’s awesome,” said Childress. “We, for sure, have an advantage since they have a three-hour bus ride. We will have more fans, which is a plus!”

SLIPPERY ROCK (34)

Sabo 1 0-0 3, Coffaro 0 0-0 0, McDermott 4 1-2 9, McCoy 5 1-2 11, Kura 1 1-3 3, Bedel 1 0-0 3, Book 2 0-0 5. Totals 14 3-7 34.

WARREN (46)

SRuhlman 2 0-0 5, Kuzminski 1 0-2 2, Childress 5 3-5 15, Stuart 5 0-0 10, ERuhlman 3 4-4 10, GRuhlman 1 1-3 4. Totals 17 8-14 46.

3-point field goals: Sabo, Bedel, Book, SRuhlman, Childress 2, GRuhlman.

Slippery Rock 9 6 8 11 — 34

Warren 13 14 8 11 — 46

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