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Laurel ends historic season for Garfield girls basketball

Laurel ends historic season for Garfield girls basketball


Garfield’s Laura McCoy finishes a layup out in front of a group of Laurel defenders during the first half of Wednesday’s regional semifinal.
Paisley Nader/Portage Sports

By Tom Nader

Publisher and Editor

The winningest season in Garfield girls basketball history came to an end on Wednesday night.

Not before a valiant effort.

In a game that head coach Aaron Gilbert admitted his team was outmatched in practically every way, the G-Men trailed by just two at halftime and hung within striking distance throughout most of the second half against the top-seeded Laurel Gators.

Garfield freshman Mandy Cardinal sinks a layup over Laurel’s Cori Marsalis (30) and Jenaya Brooks during the second half.
Paisley Nader/Portage Sports

The game turned with a crucial 30-second burst by the Gators to close out the third quarter that pushed a four-point game to a 38-29 advantage after three quarters, but more damaging was that it shifted all momentum to the Gators, who went on to capture a 53-41 Division III regional semifinal victory at Cuyahoga Falls High School.

The win advances the Gators (18-6) to Saturday afternoon’s regional-championship showdown with Chippewa, which played the early game on Wednesday at Cuyahoga Falls and defeated Warrensville Heights, 69-60. Saturday’s regional final is scheduled for 1:30 p.m.

For the G-Men, who advanced to the regional level for the third straight year, Wednesday’s loss marked the end to a historical season, with the team setting a new single-season record for wins with 23.

“I cannot even begin to express how proud I am of this group,” Gilbert said. “I love this group and that is what makes the loss so hard. That is the sad part, knowing that they will not get a chance to play together again.”

Not from a lack of heart, however.

Laurel took an early first-quarter lead, but Garfield (23-3) remained close on a trio of 3-poniters buried by Mandy Cardinal from the left wing, Maggie Fogel from the right wing and Laura McCoy from straightaway, with McCoy’s tying the score at 11-11.

Garfield’s Nora Trent (center) tries to secure a loose ball against Laurel’s Margaret Jones (right) and Tristan Williams.
Paisley Nader/Portage Sports

The G-Men offense, showing some fatigue, strung together a series of empty possessions to allow Laurel to bump its lead out to double-digits on two occasions at 21-11 and 23-13 before Garfield found some late second-quarter energy and quickly started turning stops into points.

McCoy hit another 3-pointer to cut the G-Men deficit to 27-21, and Garfield kept reducing Laurel’s lead on a pair of free throws by Nora Trent that made it 27-23, then it shrunk to 27-25 on a give-and-go between Fogel and McCoy, with McCoy on the receiving end.

“That was a big stretch for us,” Gilbert said. “We knew that we had to get stops and trade them into points for us. We battled, we countered and we kept bouncing back. (Laurel) just makes it so hard because they can create in so many ways.”

Gators point guard Tristan Williams puts up a transition layup in front of Garfield’s Maggie Fogel.
Paisley Nader/Portage Sports

More often than not, that creation was sparked by Gator standouts Saniyah Hall and Mari Bickley.

The two combined for 34 points and shot 15-of-30 from the floor, with the rest of the Gators’ team combining to shoot 8-for-27 (30 percent).

Hall, a freshman and finalist for Ohio’s prestigious Ms. Basketball this year, scored 16 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for a double-double. She also had three blocked shots and was a presence inside on both ends of the court.

Bickley, a senior that has committed to Princeton, scored 18 points, with eight coming in the second half, shot an efficient 8-for-11 from the floor and got to the basket with ease throughout the game.

The Gators’ offense was at its best when it cleared out and let Bickley try to create. The strategy helped Laurel build its biggest lead of the game, 46-31, midway through the fourth quarter on three straight layups from Bickley.

In true G-Men fashion, though, they quickly stopped that momentum with back-to-back 3s by Cardinal and Nora Trent to make the score 48-37 with just over 3 minutes to play, but the G-Men were unable to get any closer or even cut their deficit to single-digits the rest of the way.

Garfield’s Laura McCoy twists her body to kick out a pass after a dribble-drive.
Paisley Nader/Portage Sports

McCoy, a senior, led Garfield in scoring with 17 points and also had six rebounds. Cardinal, a freshman, joined her in double figures with 10 points, while also snagging six rebounds and dishing out five assists.

Senior Madeline Shirkey scored four points and had three rebounds, but she made a tremendous impact on the game defensively.






(At Cuyahoga Falls High School)

GARFIELD (41) — Laura McCoy 7 1-3 17; Mandy Cardinal 3 2-2 10; Madeline Shirkey 2 0-0 4; Nora Trent 1 2-2 5; Maggie Fogel 2 0-0 5. Totals 15 5-7 41.

LAUREL (53) — Saniyah Hall 7 2-4 16; Chloe Johnson 1 0-0 2; Mari Bickley 8 2-3 18; Tristan Williams 3 0-0 6; Sydnee Robinson 1 0-0 2; Margaret Jones 2 2-2 6; Lori Marsalis 1 0-0 3. Totals 23 6-9 53.

GARFIELD 11-14-4-12—41

LAUREL 16-11-11-15—53

Three-Point Goals — Garfield (6-14): McCoy 2, Cardinal 2, Trent 1, Fogel 1. Laurel (1-19): L. Marsalis 1.

Total Rebounds — Laurel, 28-22.

Total Assists — Garfield, 11-10.

Total Turnovers — Garfield, 15-8.

Total Fouls — Laurel, 8-7.

Garfield’s Madeline Shirkey (right) and Laurel’s Saniyah Hall battle for a rebound.
Paisley Nader/Portage Sports

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