EASTLAKE—North celebrated its seven seniors with a dominating 89-29 win over rival South on Wednesday.
The Rangers also clinched outright the 2017-2018 Western Reserve Conference championship.
“I couldn’t have written a book with a better ending,” said North coach Paul Force. “To have the opportunity to clinch it by ourselves tonight was something special.”
North improved to 17-3 overall and 13-0 in league play. A loss to the Rebels would have left the door open for Kenston (15-6, 11-2) to earn a share of the league title.
The Rangers, who also won league titles under Force in 2009, 2011, 2012 and 2014, slammed that door shut early in the contest by taking a 10-0 lead.
North led, 22-5, after the first quarter and 49-9 at halftime.
“The energy from the bench to the floor was cool to see,” Force said. “We talked in the locker room before to the underclassmen about making it about the seniors and what they’ve put into the program. At the same time, we talked to the seniors about making it about everybody else. I think you’ve got a special group when people are out there jumping up and down for somebody else when they’re scoring a basket or making a 3.”
Destiny Leo scored a game-high 30 points to lead the Rangers while Samantha Pirosko finished with 17 and Sammi Valaitis came off the bench to score 11.
Valaitis drained three straight 3-pointers in the fourth quarter as the Rangers tied a state record with eight 3s in one quarter. Caitlin Weber hit a pair and Val Arnold, Maddy Hamilton and Destiny Leo also connected from behind the arc in the fourth.
Anaunda Lyons contributed to the win with nine points and Weber pitched in with seven.
While the Rangers locked down the conference title, they have plenty of unfinished business. First, they close out the regular season against Riverside on Saturday with the chance to run the table in the WRC and then they’ll turn their attention to the postseason as the top seed in the Division I Perry District.
“We’ve still got goals on our goals poster that are out there in front of us,” Force said. “We know that nothing this time of year comes easy. We’ve never gone undefeated (in the WRC). We’ve got that opportunity on Saturday. Riverside is playing better as of late. They knocked off Chardon and beat Mayfield. The target isn’t getting any smaller when you put the No. 1 seed next to us on the bracket but we’re ready for whatever challenges we’ve got ahead.”
North 89, South 29
South: Nelson 2, Weyman Heller 7, Blasinsky 4, Merk 6, Waseleski 2, Ward 3, Simic 3, Trembley 2
North (17-3): T. Valaitis 2, S. Valaitis 11, Arnold 3, Stuart 5, Lyons 9, Hamilton 3, Leo 30, Pirosko 17, Johnston 2, Weber 7
South 5 4 9 11 — 29
North 22 27 16 24 — 89
Free throws: South 4 of 8, North 8 of 10; 3-pointers: South 5 (Weyman, Heller, Blasinsky, Merk, Ward, Simic), North 17 (Leo 7); Rebounds: South 19, North 43 (Arnold 6); Assists: South 6, North 24