Monday, April 22, 2024

Wickliffe rides Gabriel to postseason win over Independence

WICKLIFFE—Ava Gabriel scored a game-high 29 points in leading Wickliffe to a 40-27 win over visiting Independence in a Division III sectional semifinal on Wednesday.

Gabriel scored 18 points in the second half and outscored the entire Independence squad.

“That’s not the first time that she’s outscored the other team,” said Wickliffe coach Jason Moulton. “I think it’s happened three or four times throughout the season, so we’re used to that. She just has a calmness to her every time she touches the ball. She knows the situation and she knows where she’s supposed to be and can find those little gaps. She’s not super fast, but you can’t tell that by the way she goes out on the court because she picks her spots so well; it’s incredible.”

Independence used an Addie Walker 3-pointer to take a 7-6 lead into the second quarter.

Wickliffe began pulling away midway through the second thanks to Gabriel’s six points and four more from Gabby Ervin.

At the break, Wickliffe adjusted its game plan to better counter the pressure Independence’s defense applied in the first half.

“I think they threw a lot of pressure early,” Moulton said of Independence. “We knew going into it the were going to blitz every screen, so we kind of tried to put a new offense in and maybe that was my fault, maybe I should have stuck to my guns early. I wanted to get more off-ball screens instead of on-ball because I was a little bit worried about them blitzing screens and taking the ball out of Ava’s hands. I kind of went away with it and realized don’t be stupid, keep it simple, stick to your guns, and do what you do best and that’s what we did.”

Gabriel drove to the hoop and scored on three early possessions in the third quarter and then spent much of the rest of the game at the free throw line.

She converted 3-of-3 tries in the third quarter and went 9-of-10 in the fourth to finish the game 14-of-17 from the line.

Amanda Peklay scored all four of her points in the fourth quarter to help Wickliffe keep Independence at arm’s length.

Eliza Willis and Ervin both contributed to the win with four points, and Samara Young pitched in with two.

“Amanda Peklay, Gabby Ervin, and Eliza Wills compete so hard,” Moulton said. “They’re just pure athletes. They compete on the soccer field, basketball court, softball, tennis, they just compete and they’re made for games like this, especially Eliza. Eliza is made for these types of games. They all know where they fit in offensively and they’re going to do whatever they have to do.”

Paige Priebe led Independence with nine points while Walker, Makenna Rini, and Casey Adams scored four each. Emily Gibbons finished with two.

“We held them scoreless for the first four and a half minutes, but we just couldn’t get a lead,” said Independence coach Hugh McMahon. “I thought if we got a lead, we’d be OK, but we broke down as far as what we wanted to do defensively a little bit. We’ve got some girls that are tired and banged up and so I think our rotations weren’t the greatest at that point in time, but I’m so proud of the seniors. They’re in so many things and they work hard, and they give me everything they’ve got. I’m really proud of them and it’s really sad to see them go.”

Independence closed out the season with a 9-13 record.

Wickliffe improved to 16-5 and advanced to play at Smithville in a sectional championship game on Saturday.


Steve Hare
Steve Hare
Steve Hare is the Chagrin Valley Conference's Sports Information Director. He also created and publishes, an online publication dedicated to providing hyperlocal coverage to area high school athletic programs. Hare began covering high school sports for the Lake County News Herald in 1997. Hare attended Willoughby South High School through the middle of his senior year, then graduated from Berkshire High School in Burton in 1986. He played football, wrestled and was an all-Geauga county baseball player (1986). He lives in Chardon with his wife Paulette and their children.

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