She shoots, she ‘Scors:’ Sophomore’s career-high 17 help Lady Zs complete back-to-back sectionals
Rogers adds 3 treys in second half in win over Manchester
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
NORTH MANCHESTER –- The fate of girls high school basketball seasons can change in two weeks.
Two weeks before the Rochester girls basketball team played Manchester in the Class 2A, Sectional 37 final at Manchester Saturday, they played the Lady Squires on their home floor during their regular season meeting.
They lost by two points, sending their Three Rivers Conference title hopes reeling.
Speaking of two weeks, that was the length of the team-wide coronavirus-related quarantine from Nov. 13-27 that kept them away from each other. Then there was another two-week quarantine from Dec. 30-Jan. 13.
But if fate or a virus can change a season in two weeks, the Lady Zs’ formula for winning a sectional didn’t change in one year: loads of post players, timely 3-point shooting and a defense that doesn’t even let the hottest of offenses break loose.
Rochester put it all together again on the big stage of a sectional Saturday night, avenging the earlier loss and beating Manchester 45-37. The sectional title is their 12th in school history and their fourth in the last seven years.
The Lady Zs improved to 12-8 and will play No. 7 Clinton Prairie in a Frankton regional semifinal at 10 a.m. this Saturday.
Sophomore post player Millie Scorsone scored a career-high 17 points to lead RHS. Kaitlin Rogers scored all nine of her points on three 3-pointers in the second half, and Kallie Watson added eight off the bench.
After the loss to Manchester, RHS lost by 36 points against Northfield and had to settle for a tie for second place in the TRC.
“Not necessarily the Northfield loss, but that loss here, as soon as we walked out of here, that’s whom everyone wanted,” RHS coach Brian Jennings said. “They wanted to come back here … but when the sectional draw came out, the girls wanted Manchester. The coaching staff? Not so much. Manchester is really a hard matchup for us because they have six people that can score. Kinda similar to us. They’ve got their two big scorers, but they distribute the ball to everybody, and that’s been hard for us to guard this year.”
Rogers joins Emily Hughes and Lexy Thomas in winning her fourth sectional in two different sports in the last 16 months. She hit eight 3-pointers and averaged 8.7 ppg during the sectional.
“It feels different this year,” Rogers said. “I feel like this one has definitely been the most different and difficult for all of us, especially because of COVID. We’ve had to start and stop our season multiple different times. And I feel like everyone in this sectional, even Manchester, has improved so much from last year. And with the two conference opponents too, I think it just made it even that much better to win.”
Said junior post player Emily Hughes: “It feels pretty great, especially since it’s our second one with this team.”
Scorsone would travel to The Zone in Plymouth and work on her game by herself during the two COVID-19 pauses.
“Pretty good, pretty good, yeah,” Scorsone said. “I’m happy we won.”
Makenzy Meyer scored 12 points, Eva Bazzoni had 11, and Emma Garriott had nine for Manchester (12-13). The Lady Squires lost to RHS in the sectional final for the second straight year. They have not won a sectional title since 2007.
RHS trailed 23-18 in the third quarter, but they went on a 14-0 run covering the third and fourth quarters in which they held Manchester scoreless for seven minutes. Scorsone’s post turnaround with three seconds left in the third quarter put RHS ahead for good at 25-23, and the run continued in the fourth.
Scorsone made two free throws, Rogers drilled a 3 off an Emma Howdeshell assist, and Scorsone scored off a Rogers post feed that led her to the goal.
Rogers also triggered another 9-0 run in the fourth quarter with a corner triple that made it 35-28.
“We lost Rogers in transition, and anytime you leave her open, I think it said she’s like 28 percent for the year (on 3-pointers), but if she’s wide open, it’s like 60 percent,” Manchester coach Josh Troyer said. “And she always hits big shots. She’s just a big shot maker, and she made them tonight, and unfortunately, it was at the wrong time for us.”
Two Thomas free throws, an Emily Hughes power layup and two Watson free throws bumped the lead to 13 with 1:04 left.
Said varsity assistant Ray Davis of Hughes: “We’ve been told at times, ‘Make her mad.’ Well, somebody made her mad because she was ripping rebounds like crazy.”
Defensively, the Lady Z focal point was Bazzoni, Manchester’s leading scorer. She averaged 14 points per game during the regular season and 22.5 ppg in sectional wins over Carroll (Flora) and Lewis Cass. She also had 14 in the second half in the regular season win over Rochester.
RHS played strong defense without fouling. Bazzoni went 12 for 12 from the foul line against Lewis Cass 24 hours earlier, but she went just 1 for 2 against RHS.
Instead of funneling opponents toward the baseline, which the coaching staff typically instructs the players to do, they told them to funnel them away from the baseline, where Manchester is typically strong.
“One thing we talked to them this morning when we went through our walk-through was you’ve got to know where Bazzoni’s at and making sure that we really pinched the middle of the top of our zone,” Davis said. “We really concentrated on when she caught it, there were two girls. We weren’t double-teaming her, but on our zone, we didn’t want to give her the baseline because she did really well on the baseline against us the other night, and our other guard was there. We just wanted to corral her and make her do some things hard. I thought we did a pretty good job with that for most of the game.”
Rogers said the size in the back row makes it tough for opponents to shoot over.
Scorsone also credited the defense.
“We have fast people, we have long people, we have tall people,” Scorsone said of the defense. “We’re just bigger and faster, I felt like.”
Scorsone scored RHS’ first six points, and when Watson hit her third 3-pointer in as many games, the Lady Zs led 9-3.
Manchester responded with the next seven points and took a 10-9 lead into the second quarter on a Garriott trey after an offensive rebound.
Neither team led by more than two points in the second quarter. Howdeshell fed Thomas for a layup and a 16-15 RHS lead, but Meyer hit two free throws with 1:32 left and another free throw with 39.2 seconds left to give Manchester an 18-16 halftime lead.
“We had some long faces in there at halftime, and we thought we played pretty well the first half, and we were still behind,” Jennings said. “We reminded them a little bit, nothing against Manchester, but they had a big lead against Manchester, and Carroll came back to tie it up, and they had a big lead against Lewis Cass the other night, and Lewis Cass came back to tie it up. I go, ‘They're going to give us a chance. In this championship game, it’s going to be tougher for them to hang on to a lead.’ I sound pretty smart right now, but I was just trying to get them back up again for the second half. The girls did an excellent job.”
The impact of Jennings’ words might not have been felt immediately.
Scorsone got the first bucket of the second half, but Bazzoni hit a 3-pointer and fed Ainsley West for a transition bucket to give Manchester their biggest lead at five.
Rochester 45, Manchester 37
MANCHESTER (37) (12-13)
Emma Garriott 3 2-2 9, Eva Bazzoni 4 1-2 11, Ainsley West 1 1-2 3, Morgan Parrett 0 0-0 0, Makenzy Meyer 3 5-7 12, Keilan Creager 0 0-0 0, Aliala Atienza 0 0-0 0, Gracie Lauer 0 0-0 0, Beletu Stout 0 0-0 0, Kindra Stetzel 1 0-1 2, Olivia Neal 0 0-0 0
TEAM: 12 9-14 37
ROCHESTER (45) (12-8)
Emma Howdeshell 0 1-6 1, Kennedy Jackson 0 0-0 0, Kaitlin Rogers 3 0-0 9, Lexy Thomas 2 2-2 6, Millie Scorsone 6 5-6 17, Kallie Watson 1 5-6 8, Kim Batten 0 0-0 0, Sydney Haughs 0 0-0 0, Maddie Heinzmann 0 0-0 0, Emily Hughes 2 0-2 4, Mercedes Brown 0 0-0 0, Kylie Coleman 0 0-0 0
TEAM: 14 13-22 45
Three-point field goals:
Manchester 4 (Bazzoni 2, Meyer, Garriott),
Rochester 4 (Rogers 3, Watson)
Total fouls: Manchester 19, Rochester 17
Turnovers: Manchester 20, Rochester 17
Score by quarters
Manchester 10 8 5 14 – 37
Rochester 9 7 9 20 – 45
The Rochester girls basketball team beat Manchester 45-37 Saturday to win the Class 2A, Sectional 37 title. The Lady Zs will play No. 7 Clinton Prairie in a regional semifinal at Frankton at 10 a.m. this Saturday. Front, from left – Kennedy Jackson, Kim Batten, Mercedes Brown (holding ball), Kaitlin Rogers (holding trophy), Emma Howdeshell, Sydney Haughs, Kallie Watson. Back – assistant coach Jake Ruff, varsity assistant Ray Davis, Maddie Heinzmann, Lexy Thomas, Emily Hughes, Millie Scorsone, Kylie Coleman, manager Mackie Leslie, Kami Burkett, coach Brian Jennings, JV coach Austin Ahnafield.
Rochester’s Kaitlin Rogers, left, and Millie Scorsone celebrate on the bench during the Lady Zs’ 45-37 win over Manchester in the Class 2A, Sectional 37 final Saturday. (photo provided by Dee Brown)
Manchester’s Makenzy Meyer (45) and Rochester’s Emily Hughes (20) jockey for rebounding position as RHS’ Lexy Thomas makes a free throw during the Class 2A, Sectional 37 final at Manchester Saturday. Thomas had six points in RHS’ 45-37 win. (photo provided by Dee Brown)
Rochester girls basketball coach Brian Jennings instructs sophomore guard Kallie Watson from the bench during the Lady Zs’ Class 2A, Sectional 37 final game against Manchester Saturday. Injured teammate Kami Burkett watches from the bench. Watson scored eight points off the bench in the Lady Zs’ 45-37 win. (photo provided by Dee Brown)
The Rochester student section watches the Lady Zs defeat Manchester 45-37 in the Class 2A, Sectional 37 final at Manchester Saturday. (photo provided by Dee Brown)