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St. Vincent-St. Mary defeats Norton 49-34 for first district title since 2019

Senior guard Jazmin Torres led the Fighting Irish with 18 points
STVM district champs

PARMA HEIGHTS, Ohio – St. Vincent-St. Mary girls basketball coach Carley Whitney was holding back the emotions Saturday afternoon at Valley Forge High School after her team defeated Norton 49-34 to claim the program’s first district title since 2019.

“I am really proud of these kids,” Whitney said. “This feeling never gets old. We have been here so many times and to get back on the medal side is really special for me. It’s nice to be on the other side and have a good feeling leaving districts.”

STVM, the No. 2 seed in the Division II Northeast super district, started off as well as any team could hope for in a district final. The Fighting Irish scored the first 10 points of the game and led 10-2 after the first and then held a 23-6 lead in the second quarter before eventually leading 26-12 at the half.

The Fighting Irish got the early lead the only way they know – by playing defense.

In the first half, STVM held Norton to 12 points on 3-of-19 shooting from the floor and forced 16 turnovers.

“Defense is our thing, it’s what we preach, it’s what we work on every single day,” Whitney said. “If you want to win a championship you have to play good half-court defense.”

The turnovers led to the Fighting Irish getting easy buckets on the offensive end of the floor, with Erica King being the recipient of a number of those. King scored 11 of her 14 points in the first two quarters.

“Defense always leads to our offense, and it gets us going,” King said.

Norton played better in the second half, as the Panthers hit their first four shots in the third quarter and eventually cut the lead to eight before Jazmin Torres hit a pair of free throws and Dyllan Metcalf knocked down a 3-pointer to stretch the lead back out to 13 at 36-23 after three quarters.

“(That three) felt great,” Metcalf said. “The environment, all the yelling, it was hard to hear but then I felt in the game in that moment.”

Norton, the No. 7 seed, scored the first five points of the fourth quarter to cut the lead to eight and force Whitney to call a timeout with 6:25 left.

“Maybe as talented as you are, you need a reminder,” Whitney said. “And you get caught in moments and you don’t really understand. That’s what coaches are for I have a great coaching staff. You have to tell them what to do.”

Off the timeout, STVM scored on its next two possessions as Chenoa Moss made a basket and then King scored on an assist by Ka’Miah Prior, who had grabbed the offensive rebound on a STVM miss to make it 40-28.

STVM iced the game at the free throw line, calmly hitting nine of their 10 free throws in the fourth quarter, led by Torres, who made all six of hers for six of her game-high 18 points.

“We practice free throws every day, those type of situations,” Whitney said. “I know you can’t simulate those situations, but we practice, and we won’t leave until someone makes two in a row. (The) parents get mad at me because I am probably over practice time for pick-up, but we will sit there until someone makes two in a row.”

Winning this district title was important to the STVM seniors, who lost in this round each of the last two seasons after losing in the sectional finals in 2020.

“It’s a great feeling cutting down the nets (at districts) for the first time,” Metcalf said.

The Fighting Irish will now head to Mansfield for the regional semifinals to play either Bryan or Lima Bath, who play their district final game later on Saturday. The regional semifinal will be Tuesday, February 28th at 6 p.m.

STVM will be heading to Mansfield instead of Barberton, which is where the Fighting Irish would normally play the regionals and where they cut down the nets as regional champions in 2019. But with this year’s tournament draw, Whitney had the second selection of the three Northeast district brackets and chose Mansfield.

“It’s a fresh start for us,” Whitney said. “Getting out of here and seeing some new teams that haven’t seen us or haven’t been able to prepare for us or that we don’t know is good. We tried something different, and I think it is important to get out of your comfort zone.”