Rangers knock off defending district champs

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North 67, Euclid 49

For the first time in three years, a new champion will be crowned in the Division I Perry District Tournament.

That’s thanks to North defeating two-time defending champion Euclid, 67-49, in a Division I sectional final at North on Thursday.

“Feeding off the energy from the crowd early in that first half was the difference early in the game I felt,” said North coach Paul Force. “The girls embrace the opportunity to play in an atmosphere like that and they’ve earned that privilege. This is an easy team to fall in love with. Great kids that play hard and love each other–what else can you ask from high school sports?”

Connie Chaplin’s early layup gave the visiting Panthers a 2-0 lead but the Rangers took control from there.

North (20-3) led 17-8 after the first quarter and 39-21 at halftime.

Samantha Pirosko led the Rangers with 24 points and Destiny Leo pitched in with 23. Anaunda Lyons also scored in double figures with a season-high 15.

Equally as important, Pirosko and Leo both pulled down double-digit rebounds with 15 and 14, respectively as the Rangers outrebounded the Panthers, 47-40. Euclid dominated the boards (49-37) in a 66-64 loss at North back on Dec. 16.

“They came to our gym early in the year and pushed us around a bit on the boards,” Force said. “We felt if we turned that around, it would be hard for them to stay with us. Connie is one heck of a player and their tournament success speaks for itself. I’m proud of the girls’ preparation and effort, but it’s done. Next; same as it has been all season for us. The most important game of our season is always the next one, the girls know that.”

Lyons recorded three steals and blocked three shots in the win.

North, the No. 1 seed in the Perry District, advanced to play No. 5 Chardon, who upset No. 4 Mentor, 62-58, on Thursday.

No. 2 Kenston also advanced to the district semifinals with a 61-53 win over Shaw leaving the Western Reserve Conference with three teams in the district semifinals.

“It’s exciting to see three WRC teams in the semis,” Force said. “I’m glad the bracket could work out like that and the three of us could be standing here together. I have a ton of respect for these WRC coaches and there are some talented kids and teams in this league.”

North and Chardon will tip off at 6:00 p.m. on Monday and Kenston will play Geneva at 7:45.

North 67, Euclid 49

Euclid 8 13 17 11 – 49
North 17 22 14 14 – 67

Euclid; White 11, Chaplin 25, Robinson 2, Hall 6, Reese 3, King 2, Perkins-Hirz 0, Curtain 0, Childress 0

North (20-3) – T Valaitis 4, S Valaitis 1, Arnold 0, Stuart 0, Lyons 15, Hamilton 0, Leo 23, Pirosko 24, Johnston 0, Weber 0

FG; Euclid 20/85, North 25/56. FT; Euclid 3/6 , North 15/23. Three pointers Euclid 6 (White 3, Hall 2, Chaplin), North 2 (Leo, Lyons). Rebounds; Euclid 40, North 47 (Pirosko 15). Assists; Euclid 9, North 12 (Pirosko, Leo 4)

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The creator and publisher of OhioVarsity.com, Hare has covered high school sports in Northeast Ohio since 1997. He began as a correspondent for the Lake County News Herald, where he contributed until 2011, primarily covering high school football and wrestling. In 1999, Hare began writing for IrishIllustrated.com, a member of the Scout.com network of high school and college sports web sites. He focuses on covering Notre Dame football recruiting. OhioVarsity.com was created in 2004 and was a member of the Rivals.com network until 2012. The site's original purpose was to cover Ohio high school football and recruiting news but since has grown to cover all sports and to provide sports information services to high school athletic programs and individual teams. Hare attended Willoughby South High School through the middle of his senior year, then graduated from Berkshire High School in Burton in 1986. He played football, wrestled and was an all-Geauga county baseball player (1986). He lives in Chardon with his wife Paulette and their children.