The Boardman High School girls basketball team was eliminated Monday from the Division I state tournament after falling to second-seeded Stow-Monroe Falls in the district semifinal at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School.
The final score of 60-21 score, however, was not indicative of how sensational a season it was for the No. 5 Lady Spartans, who ended the 2016-17 season 14-11 overall and 5-7 in the All-American Conference Red Tier.
The Spartans also had two separate winning streaks of six and five games, so losing to Stow in the district was no embarrassment.
"We knew (Stow) played in a very competitive league and won 19 regular-season games," head coach Jeff Hammerton said. "We knew they were good."
The Lady Bulldogs were so good Monday night they held the Spartans to only three points after halftime. Stow needed to stifle the Spartans because the local ladies were only down six points at intermission.
"We were down 24-18 at the half, then didn't score a point in the third quarter," Hammerton said.
Before Boardman battled Stow, it impressively won two other tournament games. The Spartans stopped Warren G. Harding, 68-42, in the opening tournament tilt Feb. 18 at home.
The Spartans jumped all over the Lady Raiders in the sectional first round. A 31-15 halftime lead was extended to 51-22 after the Spartans slammed the Raiders, 20-7, in the third quarter.
Lauren Gabriele was at the top of Boardman's scoring list with 18 points. Jenna Vivo scored 16 points. Lauren Pavlansky and Alicia Saxton went for 15 and 11, respectively.
Five days later, Boardman won an epic showdown with rival Austintown Fitch, 52-50, Feb. 23 in the sectional finals at Fitch.
Neither of those two playoff victories came as any shock to Boardman's coach.
"I really am not surprised we won our first two games," Hammerton said. "We had beaten Harding twice during the year, and both Fitch games were competitive."
It's true that the Spartans kept up with the highly regarded Lady Falcons earlier this season, but both of those performances turned out to be losses for the Boardman kids.
After about 10 minutes of action Feb. 23 in Austintown, it seemed as though the Spartans were staring at loss number three to their nemesis this season.
Fitch had an 11-point lead two minutes into the second stanza, and there was no indication that it was going to relinquish that advantage anytime soon. Over the next 15 minutes of game time, that 11-point Fitch lead shockingly turned into an 11-point Boardman benefit.
Boardman's girls used a sizzling 32-10 run to turn their frowns, and their disadvantage, upside down. After the Falcons found their footing and tied the game late in the fourth quarter, the Spartans connected on a couple of important free throws to seal the sectional.
Gabriele once again led the Spartans in scoring with 20 points. The senior also made sure that her high school career would continue with three 3-pointers and seven rebounds.
Vivo scored 12 of her 15 points in the second half of the game. Cate Green scored seven points, but it was the sophomore's stoicism at the charity stripe in the final moments that helped bail out Boardman.
Although the Spartans must now say goodbye to senior stalwarts, such as Gabrielle and Pavlansky, there is a good group of returnees expected to lead the team next winter.
Vivo and Annaliisa Cordova are two seniors-to-be who have played almost every game since walking through the gym doors at Boardman.
Green had a super sophomore season and should be better as a junior. Saxton scored double-figures against Harding and had many other great scoring games throughout her sophomore year.
There are a few other Boardman underclassmen that took the court this season who also should improve with more varsity seasoning, making the impact of losing two top scorers a little less painful.