PERRY OH- In recent years, The Archbishop Hoban Knights girls basketball team, led by Head Coach Pamela Davis seemed to have gotten winning district championships down to a science. The 14 girls on The Knights squad all exemplify key attributes to have in the sport. Be hardworking, be unselfish and be smart. All of these had to be checked to win districts in the previous three seasons; however, this year had its own set of challenges for Hoban. Dropping 9 regular season games this season, when losing only 11 in their three previous years, Coach Davis said that it may have not been the most “glamorous” regular season, but she still believed in this group getting it done!
Rolling in as the #6 seed in The Northeast 2 bracket of Division 1, The Knights were set to do battle with the #3 seeded Federal League Champions, The Green Bulldogs. Also having a legend in the coaching ranks, Green Head Coach Alicia Manning who has more than enough experience and knowledge under her belt to give the next generation of hoopers. Playing at The University of Tennessee for Coach Pat Summitt, Alicia Manning knows what it takes to go on a deep run, making it to the elite eight twice in her NCAA career.
Both teams had plenty of star power to fill an entire galaxy with names like Mallory Oddo (SR) and Riley Chmielewski (SR) running the show for Green, The Bulldogs also have some up-and-coming young stars like sophomore Jenna Slates who has developed herself into quite a post presence and will leave plenty of federal league teams with their plates full when squaring off with Green. On the other side, Hoban had Rylee Bennett (SR) and MacKenzie Edingburgh (JR) that can score like machines, while also getting production from the younger players! A pair of freshmen that have been nothing short of impressive in their debut to highschool basketball, both Niera Stevens and MaKenzie Grant have been huge for Hoban this year and have left The Knights faithful excited to see just how much better they can get!
Tension was building for the opening tip-off and both crowds were into it from the jump. Of the tip, Hoban was determined to play from in front, and that they did! Jumping ahead on an opening 10-2 run, The Knights forced an early timeout from Green while grabbing the momentum early. Rylee Bennett was scoring big buckets early on, leaving Green looking for an answer. The Bulldogs were able to find one once Mallory Oddo came off the bench. Attacking The Knights with a wide range of athletic moves and cuts to the basket, Green was able to reduce the deficit. Hoban had their answers though, leading the ballgame 18-12 after a quarter.
With striking similarities to their February 6th encounter with The Bulldogs, Hoban was playing from in front, while Green walked the comeback trail. The Knights were able to build on their lead in the second quarter, getting some incredible inbound scores from Niera Steven, The Hoban freshman showed no fear attacking the strong post presence of Green. Getting key contributions from other players allowed Hoban to hold a 29-20 lead heading into halftime.
Out of the half and another Knight stepped up in the scoring column when MacKenzie Edingburgh found her rhythm and was flowing on offense. With dazzling moves to the rim, Edingburgh showed she had more than what it takes to battle and hang with strong post players, whether it was her natural position or not. Her scoring helped Hoban widen the gap once again on their opponent, this time the lead extended into double digits 43-28 the lead stood for The Knights with the final quarter set to be played.
It was now or never for Green and The Bulldogs refused to go down without a fight. In an impressive and thrilling turn of events, Green fought their way back into the ballgame! Mallory Oddo was getting big buckets in the fourth, while girls like Nina Shaffer and Jenna Slates controlled the glass in the fourth. Clamping down defensively, The Bulldogs were generating key misses from The Knight offensively, which Green effectively turned into offensive production at the other end of the floor. Then, with the game favoring Hoban 50-45 in the final minute of the game, Riley Chmielewski hit a deep deadeye three pointer that made everyone’s palms in Perry High School instantly sweat! A single possession separated the two great programs, only one could get to regionals and it was anybody’s game with Hoban up 50-48! Both teams were in foul trouble in the fourth and free throws were resulting from the defensive blunders as both teams were in the bonus. Players from both sides were playing with foul trouble, this created a huge blow to Green, losing Mallory Oddo in the waning moments of the ballgame when she picked up her fifth. The Knights split their free throw attempts and left little time on the clock for The Bulldogs, allowing Hoban to walk the tight rope to their fourth consecutive district championship, beating Green 51-48!
As we here at YSN wish the Green seniors nothing but the best in their future! For The Bulldogs coming back, we wish you the best of luck in the 2023-24 campaign! The win for Hoban (16-9) will send them to a regional semi-final matchup with the winners of the Northeast 4 (Valley Forge District) The Middies of Grafton Midview (21-4)! That matchup is scheduled on Tuesday, February 28th at Medina High School and is set to tip-off at 8:00 p.m. Interviews with both winning head coach Pamela Davis and Player of The Game Rylee Bennett can be found below!
*Contributed By YSN’s Ty Bartell