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Saniyah Hall's magical performance leads Laurel to regional title with win over Streetsboro

The sophomore sensation led the Gators with 31 points, including all 14 in the first quarter

BARBERTON, Ohio -  Barberton is known as "The Magic City." And there is no better word than magic to describe the performance put on by Laurel sophomore Saniyah Hall on Friday night at Barberton High School in an OHSAA Division II girls basketball regional final.

The Ohio Ms. Basketball finalist was ready from the moment the Gators arrived at Barberton Friday night, letting out a primal scream as the team entered the building coming off the bus.

"That's typical Saniyah Hall," Laurel head coach Terrina Robinson said with a hearty laugh. 

And then once she took the court, Hall resembled a magician pulling every trick out of her bag in a 53-32 win over Streetsboro. 

She started by grabbing a rebound off her own miss, faking a spin to the left and then making a short jumper from the right block. Then she knocked down a 3-pointer and hit a pair of free throws, leading to a timeout by Streetsboro.

She continued showing her arsenal later in the first quarter with a Eurostep that led to a left-handed layup and then a drive to the basket to make it 11-0. She finished the quarter with her second 3-pointer.

"She was incredible in that quarter, Robinson said. "She literally scored every basket and some of them were some very unbelievable shots. She led us, she carried us and she did it the right way." 

The 6-foot sophomore did in fact score all 14 points in the first quarter and Laurel led 14-0 after eight minutes. 

That's when Hall knew she was feeling it.

"As soon as I saw the scoreboard say 14-0 and with no time left in the first quarter, I just knew it," Hall said. "I knew that I was ready."

Laurel's Saniyah Hall lets out a loud scream during the regional final against Streetsboro on March 8, 2024. Laurel went on the win the game 53-32 and Hall scored a game-high 31 points.

Laurel's Saniyah Hall lets out a loud scream during the regional final against Streetsboro on March 8, 2024. Laurel went on the win the game 53-32 and Hall scored a game-high 31 points.

In the second quarter, she showed she is more than a scorer with an assist to Nyla Edwards for the first Laurel points of the period.

"I had to get my teammates involved, that was very important for me," Hall said. "I felt  like just having one person against five people that's not how it should be."

But after Streetsboro scored five straight points from Olivia Johnson-Wilson, it was time for Hall to again assert her dominance.

She did so by scoring the nine of Laurel's last 11 points of the quarter and on the basket she didn't score, she deflected the ball away on defense, which led to a fast break basket for Tristen Williams.

In the second quarter, she again scored in a variety of ways, including a 16-foot jumper, a drive to the basket for an and-1 and then a steal and a layup in the final seconds of the quarter, where she turned to the Streetsboro student section and put her finger to her lips, telling them to be quiet.

She picked up four more points and three assists in the third quarter and then her final acts came in the fourth quarter, when she scored her last four points and dished out a pair of assists.

With just over six minutes to play in the game, as she took the ball at the right wing, dribbled to her right, crossed over on the defender, drove the baseline and pulled up for a 12-foot jumper that was pure.

And then just about a minute later, she ripped the ball right out of the hands of a Streetsboro player, started up the floor and slowed down before speeding back up and finding Liz Schneider for an easy bucket.

Later in the quarter, she drove the lane and pulled up for a little running floater for her final basket of the game.

And then in what have been the most magical of her Houdini acts, she was inbounding the ball from the side and somehow found Williams under the basket even though she was covered well by a Streetsboro defender. Hall made the pass anyway, and it hit Williams right in the hands for an easy layup.

"She's just an incredible player and she's so unselfish," Robinson said. "She can score 30 points on any given night. But she can also share the ball with some incredible passes. And she loves doing that."

Hall finished the game with 31 points, eight rebounds, six assists and five blocked shots.

"Once she gets locked in, God bless anybody that tries to stand in her way," Robinson said.

The motivation for Hall Friday night was easy - all she had to do was think back to this same round a season ago when Laurel went into the regional final against Chippewa and fell short.

"I took it to heart because I really wanted to win last year and we couldn't," Hall said. "So I took that and I learned from all the mistakes that happened last year and I fixed them and this is where we are tonight."

Where the Gators were Friday night was at Barberton cutting down the nets for a regional championship. But where they are headed is to Dayton for the Division II state semifinals at the University of Dayton Arena on Friday, March 15 at 11:00 am against Fairland.

And when it was all over on Friday night, Hall let out one more big scream. This one came as she embraced Robinson and yelled "We're going to Dayton!"

Friday was a magical night, indeed. 

-- Ryan Isley | | @sbliveoh