MINERAL RIDGE-The scenario was nearly the same.
For the second straight season Columbiana faced Lisbon in a Div. IV district semifinal as a heavy favorite, and for the second straight season the underdog Blue Devils played tougher than many expected. This time, however, the Clippers had enough to ward off the upset.
Baylie Mook had 26 points and five steals, while Emily Witmer had a huge second half as the top-seeded Clippers fought off a determined Lisbon effort to defeat the ninth-seeded Blue Devils 58-50 on Wednesday at Mineral Ridge High School.
Columbiana (23-2) gets one back at the Blue Devils who sprung a 52-40 upset in last season's district semifinal. The Clippers will play for the district championship at 4 p.m. Saturday against the winner of today's Western Reserve-Lordstown game.
"We were pretty upset about last season's game, but we are more ready to pull out tough games this season," Columbiana junior Emily Witmer said.
The Clippers used a second quarter explosion from Mook to open a 32-18 lead at halftime, but the Blue Devils refused to be shoved aside. Freshman forward Mackenzie Mason-who finished with 10 points-came off the bench in the third quarter to spark Lisbon with eight straight points in a two-minute stretch. With 1:26 left in the frame, the Clipper lead was down to five.
"Tonight Mackenzie played above and beyond what she had all season," Lisbon coach Jason Thompson said. "She has loads of potential that most people don't realize."
With Lisbon edging closer, it was time for Witmer to step up.
She scored the next 11 Clipper points in a variety of ways, hitting jump shots, finishing at the rim and getting to the foul line. When Mook found her with a nice pass under the hoop, the Clippers led 47-38 with 3:27 left in the game.
Witmer finished the night with 22 points and four rebounds. She made all 10 of her free throws and added three steals.
"I knew that I had to do my job and everyone else had to do theirs," Witmer said. "Lisbon was playing us really hard and we had to find a way to push through."
"For the first time all year we had to play controlled basketball and we converted out of some nice offensive sets," Columbiana coach Ron Moschella said. "Emily Witmer was monstrous for us."
With a little breathing room established Mook-who had thus far been scoreless in the second half-re-asserted herself, scoring the next six Clipper points by driving to the basket. With 1:12 left the Clippers led 53-41 and were able to salt the game away from there.
"Bailey is our sparkplug," Moschella said. "She runs our offense and makes us go. She's hard to stop when she takes it to the hoop."
Lisbon senior Sarah Boyd-who burned the Clippers with four threes in last season's upset-hit four more threes Wednesday and finished with 14 points. The senior guard knocked down a pair of three-point shots in the first half to set an early tone. as the Blue Devils were down only 14-13 early in the second quarter. However, the Clippers-most notably Mook-finished the quarter with a flurry to give the Clippers their 14-point halftime lead. Mook hit two threes and scored twice off of steals during that span.
"I give our players a lot of credit," Thompson said. "They could have caved in but they kept themselves together. They played all the way through."
"We had some trouble closing out on their shooters," Moschella said. "Overall it wasn't our best defensive game. We need to get that shored up by Saturday."
The Blue Devils close the season at 7-18, but Lisbon loses only Boyd and Jenna Dickson to graduation, returning four starters next year.
"We return six of the eight players who played tonight," Thompson said. "The sky is the limit for these girls and tonight proved it. I think they are realizing how good they can be."
Columbiana beat Lisbon 50-28 in the regular season.
"We played them close in the first half of that one, but shot ourselves in the foot a little bit," Thompson said. "Our girls were not in awe of Columbiana one bit. We knew from the last couple of years that we could play with them.
Columbiana finished 22-32 at the foul line. Lisbon was 2-8.
LISBON SCORING: Tiffany Ketchum 0-1-1, Karlee Pezzano 5-0-11, Sarah Boyd 5-0-14, Alli Davis 4-1-10, Taylor Siefke 1-0-2, Emily Steves 1-0-2, Mackenzie Mason 5-0-10, Jenna Dickson 0-0-0. TEAM TOTALS: 21, 2-8: 50.
COLUMBIANA SCORING: Baylie Mook 9-6-26, Bri Gingher 0-1-1, Lauren Schlueter 1-0-2, Emily Witmer 6-10-22, Aleah Whitacre 1-3-5, Mollie Donnelly 0-1-1, Brynn Pennell 0-0-0, Elise Hammond 0-1-1. TEAM TOTALS: 17, 22-32: 58.
Three-point goals: Lisbon 6 (Boyd 4, Pezzano, Davis), Columbiana 2 (Mook 2).