The magical tournament run of the Boardman girls basketball team only ended up lasting one game.
A few nights after the Lady Spartans upset rival Fitch in the opening round of the Division I Akron Districts, Boardman was bounced from the playoffs in a 45-35 loss to Aurora on Thursday, Feb. 21. One day you are euphorically celebrating a big win, the next your season ends abruptly.
"Basketball season is tough," said Boardman head coach Jeff Hammerton dejectedly. "It's like a band aid. It just rips off."
The Lady Spartans were able to rip off enough shots in the first half to stay close to the higher-seeded Lady Greenmen last Thursday. Aurora took a 14-11 lead after one period, but Boardman was battling enough to look as if it wasn't ready to end its triumphant tournament trip. In the second stanza, however, the Greenmen grabbed control with a 13-5 run. The 27-16 Aurora advantage was partially made possible because Boardman's brilliant senior Emily Gibbs picked up too many fouls.
"What a killer it was for us when Gibbs got into foul trouble," said Hammerton. "We were hanging in there with them until we lost our height against their two seven-footers. I decided to keep her in there because it was possibly her last game."
Although Gibbs did play gamely scoring nine points, she wasn't her usual aggressive self in the paint after picking up the early infractions. Without Gibbs' ferocity Aurora's dynamic duo of Camilla Brown and Allison Howard were able to score 27 of their team's 45 points.
Boardman was able to get back into the game a bit in the third quarter and at one point had its deficit to single digits. Unfortunately, the Greenmen had enough gas to fend off the Spartans' charge.
"We made a run in the second half cutting (Aurora's lead) to four," Hammerton said. "They hit their foul shots down the stretch to end it."
Even harder to swallow than losing the game was going into the locker room afterward and consoling Boardman's lone senior.
"There were some tears for sure," Hammerton said quietly. "I told Emily I appreciated her as a person. She carries herself so well off the court. On the court, she really left everything she had."
Also leaving a ton on the court was Kelly Tomcsanyi who led the Spartans in scoring with 14 points. Megan Volosin came home from Akron with seven points. Both of those Boardman girls will be back next fall to try to help continue the momentum this year's tournament win over Fitch gave the program. Coach Hammerton is excited of the potential of his backcourt, but is a little leery when forecasting his frontcourt.
"Our guards got better this year," the coach explained, "but we are losing our inside presence. Emily averaged 10 rebounds per game. I am worried about our rebounding."
The coach is also a little concerned with the bulk of his bunch. He certainly doesn't wish for his ladies to all come back in November looking like Laila Ali, but Hammerton wouldn't mind them to hammer it out in the gym a little.
"I want our girls to lift weights," Hammerton said. "I don't want them to get huge, but I would like them to put on muscle. I would also like them to work on their footwork and conditioning just in case we have to become a pressing and run-and-gun-type team."
In the loss last Thursday, Boardman only connected on 12 of 49 shots from the field and hit just two three-pointers. The Spartans had almost reverse offensive stats against the Falcons in the same arena. That leads to one other area where coach Hammerton will be pleading for his pupils to become better.
"We need consistency," he insisted. "We must work on our shooting."