By SHANNON DOVE
for The Courier
SHELBY — New Riegel’s girls basketball team danced and grooved to the music as Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” blasted overhead.
The Blue Jackets were definitely happy, and with good reason.
Lauren Ladd had a double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds and the Blue Jackets crushed South Central 64-28 to win the Division IV district girls basketball championship Saturday at Shelby.
New Riegel (22-2) will face Carey (22-2) at 6 p.m. Thursday at Elida in a regional semifinal. The Blue Devils edged Arcadia 48-45 to advance to the regional. South Central finished the season with a 24-2 record, the best in the program’s history.
“This was a huge, huge step,” South Central coach Becky Hintz said. “It’s been since 1998 that we were district finalists. It’s been since 1998 that we won a Firelands Conference championship. We are 24-2, best record in the school’s history.
“We have so much to be proud of. Our girls, they’re very sad right now. So am I. (We) had a good thing going.”
New Riegel opened the game with a 10-0 run and surrendered just two field goals, a pair of lauyps by 6-foot-1 junior Anna Hintz, in the first quarter.
Meanwhile, five Blue Jackets, Taylor Arbogast, Taylor Kirian, Kara Scherger, Hailey Theis and Ladd, scored in the opening period to put New Riegel up 18-4.
“We didn’t expect this but we just came in and got off to a great start and maintained it for 32 minutes,” New Riegel coach Steve Lucius said. “That’s the amazing part. All credit to the kids. They were so mentally and physically ready to play, obviously.”
“(Lucius) keys on coming out and starting strong because in the past we’ve started out a little lazy,” Ladd said. “But he’s been really getting on us about coming out and being strong, so he tries to pump us up as much as he can so we can come out and just dominate.”
Much of New Riegel’s offense started with defense as the Blue Jackets forced 18 Trojans turnovers while committing just nine.
“We were expecting the press, we were definitely expecting the press,” Becky Hintz said. “I don’t know why we did what we did because we normally handle the press very well. (New Riegel) is a great defensive team. Obviously, they got us.”
Rebounding was also a huge factor as New Riegel dominated the boards on both ends and finished with 35 rebounds to South Central’s 18.
“Our coach really keys on rebounding,” Ladd said. “He’s a big rebounding person. We always do box out drills and if we don’t box out, he’s going to be in our face telling us we need to box out.”
Lucius knew breaking South Central’s press would be a key factor in his team’s success or failure in the district championship.
“They kind of live and die off their press, their full-court and half-court traps,” Lucius said.
“We knew if we could get through those we’d get very good shot opportunities, high-percentage shots, and we did. We’d just pass, reverse, get it inside. We got great shots.”
South Central’s offense showed signs of life in the second quarter when Summer Sweeting scored seven points and Alli Hintz put in five, including a 3-pointer.
New Riegel continued to roll, though, increasing its 14-point first-quarter lead to 16 points (34-18) at the half.
Any hope of a second-half rally was quickly extinguished by the Blue Jackets as Arbogast and Kirian scored on putbacks, Ladd canned a pair of field goals and New Riegel scored the first 14 points of the third quarter.
The Trojans’ only offense in the period was a layup by Anna Hintz in the final minute.
Anna Hintz was the only player to score for South Central in the second half, recording eight of her 16 points in the fourth quarter.
“I don’t know if they’ve been pressured too much all year,” Lucius said of South Central. “They were very athletic but we were able to get in passing lanes, make them dribble, get them go east and west “¦ It kind of set the tone for the whole defense.”
Kirian paced the Blue Jackets with 17 points while Arbogast finished with 12.
“We definitely played better than we normally do, but I feel we can play even better than that,” Ladd said.
“I feel that we’re a really strong team and very close knit and we like to play together.”
NEW RIEGEL (22-2)
Bouillon 0-2–2, La. Zoeller 1-0–3, Arbogast 6-0–12, Kirian 7-3–17, Scherger 3-2–8, Ladd 8-0–16, Hoepf 0-0–0, Theis 1-2–4, Noftz 0-2–2, Reinhart 0-0–0. TOTALS: 26-53 11-16–64.
SOUTH CENTRAL (24-2)
Sweeting 3-1–7, An. Hintz 7-2–16, Blanton 0-0–0, Al. Hintz 1-2–5, Huffman 0-0–0, McGahhey 0-0–0, Vogel 0-0–0, Kilgore 0-0–0, Deeble 0-0–0, Tuttle 0-0–0. TOTALS: 11-38 5-5–28.
New Riegel 18 16 14 16 — 64
South Central 4 14 2 8 — 28
3-POINT GOALS: New Riegel 1-8 (Zoeller); South Central 1-11 (Al. Hintz).
REBOUNDING: New Riegel 35 (Ladd 11); South Central 18 (An. Hintz 6).
TURNOVERS: New Riegel 9; South Central 18.