Lake Ridge Royals to face experienced Berlin Hiland Hawks in regional semifinal

While one team is coming off its first district title in school history, the other is looking to get to its seventh state final appearance in the last 13 years.

When it comes to Lake Ridge and Berlin Hiland, experience may be the biggest thing separating the two basketball programs, who meet tonight in a Division IV Massillon Regional Semifinal game at Perry High School.

Tip-off is at 8 p.m.

“We’re very excited to have a postseason, to be in this position and to be in the Sweet 16,” Royals first-year head coach Lisa Medvetz said. “It’s an exciting time and it’s been a humbling experience for both the coaching staff and the girls to make it this far because not many teams are in the position we’re in.”

A humbling experience indeed for the Royals (22-3), who are coming off a two-year postseason ban for recruiting violations.

Now back in the playoffs, they’ve put the past behind them.

And they’re making it look easy.

In three postseason games Lake Ridge has pummeled its opponents, outscoring them 192-78. In the sectional finals and district semifinals, the Royals posted identical 72-25 wins over Lake Center and East Canton.

Lake Ridge didn’t score that many points in the district finals, but still ended up winning by 20, knocking off Ashland Mapleton 48-28 for its first district championship.

The Royals are averaging 64 points per game on offense while their defense is allowing a measly 26 points per game.

So, what’s more impressive?

“I’d say our defense,” said Medvetz, who was named the All-Northeast District D-IV Coach of the Year. “Our defense has really come along as far as our full court pressure. I think that was key in a couple of our first tournament games — picking up full court and just kind of driving that offensive person into a turnover.”

Lake Ridge will have to use its stingy defense against Berlin Hiland, whose average margin of victory in four postseason games is 26 points.

A lot of those points came against New Philadelphia Tuscarawas C.C. in the sectional semifinals, where the Hawks (23-3) won by 72 points. An 81-9 thrashing.

While Berlin Hiland has managed to score just over half that in its last three games, it too is winning games with defense — giving up just over 28 points per game this postseason.

The Hawks are looking to get to the state finals for the first time since 2010, when they lost to Canal Winchester Harvest Prep. They also made it to the finals in 2009, losing to Columbus Africentric Early College.

Before that, though, Berlin Hiland was on a tear.

Behind head coach Dave Schlabach, the Hawks won the D-IV state title in 2000, 2005, 2006 and 2008.

“We know that Berlin is a traditionally strong winning program, but we’re also a winning program and we also have a lot of talented young ladies within our program,” Medvetz said. “Going into these couple practices and preparing these girls it’s just been focusing on what we have to do and focusing on ourselves.

“We don’t need to stray from what we’ve been doing all year. We’re 22-3 and we just need to keep our heads in the game and we just need to stay focused.”

The Royals don’t have the postseason experience the Hawks have, but Medvetz said an advantage her team has is the tough schedule it played in the regular season.

Lake Ridge played a lot of D-I and D-II teams, including Lakewood, Midpark, Gilmour Academy and St. Joseph Academy.

“We setup a strong schedule for a reason and that’s to prepare us for tournament time,” Medvetz said. “I do think the schedule has helped us and it has also helped us work in our young kids and to get them ready as well for this tournament.”

Another advantage Medvetz said her team has is that its big and physical.

The team is led by senior Sydney Clark, who was named the All-Northeast District D-IV Player of the Year.

Fellow seniors Sharday Baines and Monet Saunders were named to the First Team, while senior Kyndall Wellons and junior Selena Benz were named to the Second Team.

“Right now I’m confident in what we do,” Medvetz said. “Going into this game we just have to be confident.”

The winner of tonight’s game will play the winner of Cortland Maplewood/Lowelville in the regional finals Saturday night at 7:30 p.m.

@PaulBarney18

Last Updated: 3/16/2013 12:49:13 PM EST

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