Elyria Catholic Panthers-Lakewood Rangers game will determine West Shore Conference

MORNING JOURNAL/SAM GREENE Panthers guard Brittney McNamara, front, drives along the baseline against Avon earlier this season. McNamara is averaging 13 points per game, while helping lead the Panthers to a 16-3 record.

The Elyria Catholic girls basketball team has done a good job all season of not getting too low on a loss.

In fact, after each one of the Panthers’ losses this season has followed a stretch of wins.

Elyria Catholic (16-3, 9-2 West Shore Conference) suffered its first loss way back on Nov. 24, a 49-42 setback to cross-town rival Elyria in the championship game of the Lorain County Holiday Classic Girls Basketball Tournament.

After that the Panthers rattled off seven straight wins (Columbia, Beaumont, Midview, Vermilion, Avon, North Ridgeville, Lutheran West).

Their second loss came nearly a month after their first, 55-38 at Lakewood. Following that 17-point loss to the Rangers, Elyria Catholic again went on a streak — this time six — with wins over Keystone, Cleveland Central Catholic, Rocky River, Villa Angela-St. Joseph, Vermilion and Midview.

It’s most recent loss came Saturday, 48-46 to Avon.

But since then, the Panthers have won back-to-back games against Bay and North Ridgeville.

“You want your girls to be able to bounce back and have a short memory when it comes to mistakes and losses in general,” EC head coach Eric Rothgery said. “You want to learn from them but you don’t want to dwell on them, and I think the girls have done a good job with that.”

Three more games are left in the regular season, and the Panthers would like to enter the postseason on a five-game winning streak.

And they’ll have to if they want any shot at a WSC title.

Elyria Catholic will need to win its final three games (Lakewood, Rocky River, Bay) to earn a tie of the WSC championship.

“Our road is pretty tough,” Rothgery said.

The Panthers are one game behind Lakewood in the WSC standings. Both teams meet again Saturday at 2:30 p.m. at Elyria Catholic, where the Panthers are a perfect 7-0 this season.

But one of their three losses on the season has come against the Rangers.

“There guards are just fantastic,” Rothgery said. “Mikayla Harper and Maggie Rowell are two of the best guards in the conference sitting on the same team. And they’ve got some depth behind there with other girls that can come in and make things happen.

“It’s just quickness at the guards that gives them an advantage over everybody in our league.”

The Panthers are playing without their starting freshman point guard Riley Schill, who underwent an emergency appendectomy the morning of Elyria Catholic’s game against Avon, which the Eagles won by two points.

Schill was averaging 10.6 points, 5.8 assists and 3.3 steals a game before her surgery. Rothgery said the team will “maybe” have her back for its game against the Rockets in the regular season finale.

After an 8-13 record last season, winning conference would be a testament to Elyria Catholic, especially without Schill in the lineup down the stretch. Seniors Brittney McNamara, Karissa McGrath and Shannon Hopkins have been clutch in helping the freshmen (Schill and Josie Carandang) get acclimated to varsity basketball. McNamara, McGrath and Hopkins were freshmen on the Panthers’ team that made it to the state semifinal in 2009-’10.

“(Winning conference) is one of the goals you always set at the beginning of the year,” Rothgery said. “Probably our biggest goal is to get deep into the tournament — and we know our conference is pretty well-respected in girls basketball — so we get good experience during the regular season that helps us get prepared for the tournament.”

Almost there

Vermilion senor AuBree Laforce, who scored her 1,000th point early last month, is inching closer to another milestone.

After scoring 13 points in a loss to Lakewood on Wednesday, LaForce is 29 points away from breaking the school’s all-time scoring record (1,135), which was set by Jill Dodson in 1997. Dodson, who lives in Dayton, will be in attendance when the Sailors take on Midview on Saturday.

Celebration

During halftime of the Firelands-Wellington varsity game Saturday, the Falcons will be honoring the 1973 girls basketball team that won the Inland Conference championship.

@PaulBarney18

Last Updated: 2/1/2013 2:52:20 PM EST

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