For the Star Beacon
The Garfield girls basketball team is young, but has talent and height. Grand Valley took advantage of that youth to make a late run, but couldn’t quite erase the deficit that was built with the help of its opponent’s other two qualities.
The G-Men — they of the female variety — built a 16-point fourth-quarter lead, then held off a furious Mustang charge to win, 42-37, in a Division III sectional semifinal contest on Wednesday.
Fourth-seeded Garfield (15-8) advances to the sectional final round, where it will face Cardinal on Saturday. That game as well as this one was played on its home floor in Garrettsville.
Freshman Grayson Rose came up big in more ways than one for Garfield. She came up just short of a triple-double with 13 points, 16 rebounds and 9 blocked shots.
Rose is one of two starters on the team who stand at 6-foot-1, along with sophomore Alicia Witte (8 points, 6 boards, 4 steals).
“I’ve been here 7 years now, and I haven’t had height like this, ever,” Garfield coach Aaron Gilbert said. “And it’s nice that they’re a freshman and sophomore.
“(Rose) stays pretty level. She’s one of those kids where she’s very humble, she wants to get her teammates involved.”
“(Rose) is a good ballplayer,” GV coach Kim Triskett said. “She puts in a lot of time. She plays AAU basketball. And obviously, the competitiveness of that serves her well as she moves into the high school realm.”
Garfield held sixth-seeded GV (14-9) without a field goal in the third quarter to stretch a slim 24-22 halftime advantage to 35-24. Three-of-four Rose free throws and a Witte follow finished a 9-0 run to provide a 40-24 lead with 6:20 remaining.
But over the next 6 minutes, the Mustangs forced 8 turnovers while holding Garfield to 0-for-6 from the floor.
Even so, it took Grand Valley about 2 minutes to score, when Alexis Cassesa (7 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 5 steals) hit a 3-pointer for its first field goal of the half. Chris Futty’s (8 rebounds) follow and layup, the second at about the 2-minute mark, cut it to 40-31.
Cassesa stole the ball and fed Jessica Vormelker for a layup, and after Cassesa knocked the ball away, she converted two foul shots to make it 40-35 at the 1:20 mark. The Mustangs were then able to tie the ball up and take possession with 44 seconds left, but missed a shot. However, Cassesa stole the ball again, and again found Vormelker (2 blocked shots) for a layup to make it a one-possession game at 40-37 with 20.2 seconds remaining.
The Mustangs, however, could not get that possession before Garfied broke its drought, as freshman Lauren Jones (4 assists) made a one-and-one with 14.5 seconds on the clock.
Rose then stole the ball and was tied up, with Garfield getting possession. It was then able to run off the final seconds.
“(They) fought to the very end — that’s all you can ask,” Triskett said. “Unfortunately, we had a lapse there in the third quarter where we couldn’t put the ball in the hole.”
Garfield has only one senior on its roster, and she played only briefly. It did suffer 28 turnovers, 8 more than GV.
“I think that fourth quarter, there were times where we showed our youth,” Gilbert said. “That’s the thing with young kids — you just don’t know what they’re going to do.”
Katie Futty blocked 3 shots and Shar Miller two for GV.
Grand Valley held an early 10-5 advantage, but Garfield took the lead for good at 13-12 when Madisson Geddes (9 points on 3 treys, all in the first half) nailed a shot from midcourt to end the first period. She hit another 3-pointer to open the second-quarter scoring in helping her team make it an 8-0 spurt for an 18-12 advantage.
The Mustangs, however, were able to stay within two at the break, thanks to Abby Paskey (12 points), who tallied all 10 of their points in the frame.
“They were keying on Jess,” Triskett said. “Abby stepped up and hit some shots.”
“Vormelker, in fact, was held to 6 points.
“Our whole scouting report was Jess,” Gilbert, who complimented the job Triskett does, said. “She’s a heck of a player. She was our concern. (Paskey) started hitting shots, and I was like, ‘Where did this girl come from?’ She was on our (scouting) report, but she wasn’t as high up.
“We knew about Jess; she’s a stud. And we scrimmaged with them back in November.”
Neither team shot well from the floor, with the Mustangs going 14 of 59 (23.7 percent) and Garfield 15 of 53 (28.3 percent). Garfield led on the boards 47-37, including 39-25 individually. GV made all 6 of its free throws, as compared to 8 of 13 for its hosts.
“If we could have gotten a couple more of those shots to fall at the beginning of the game, that would have helped us a little bit,” Triskett said. “But when you fall behind and you start to press a little, that makes it a little bit tougher.”
“Third quarter, defensively — held them without a basket,” Gilbert said. That was it, right there. And really, you go all the way back to that 3-pointer at the end of the first quarter from halfcourt — that was a huge shot, because Vormelker had just come down and hit a shot to put them up 2, and (Geddes) comes right down and she hits that. That was big.”
Goldman is a freelance writer from South Euclid.