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"That School Up North" broke the hearts of Twinsburg girls basketball again.
Some hot second-half shooting by rival Solon helped evaporate Twinsburg's 12-point lead early in the Division I district final, as the Comets scored a 51-47 win that ended the Tigers season.
The loss was difficult for the Lady Tigers, who fought hard in an intense game March 2 at Harold "Doc" Daugherty Gymnasium in Euclid.
Twinsburg dominated early with defense and rebounding as the Tigers soared to a 16-4 lead going into the second stanza, but could not hold on.
It was a tough loss for a deep senior class and for Tiger head coach Julie Solis. Twinsburg ended with a fantastic 20-6 season that saw the program win a share of a Suburban League National Conference title.
"We had a great effort defensively, but we have to be able to finish games," Solis said. "I think we did everything well for three and a half quarters."
"I thought we did a great job early and Solon is a great basketball team and could win [the state title], added Solis.
In the final state poll, Solon (23-2) was ranked seventh and advanced to the Canton regionals, striving for a third straight Final Four appearance.
Solon is led by Dee Bekelja, the Comet's all-time leading scorer who is headed to DePaul University.
Second seeded Twinsburg defended Bekelja well, which was a huge key to gaining a big lead early on.
Bekelja is the motor that makes the Comets go, but in the fourth quarter against the Tigers, it was speedy guard Maria Modkins who did the damage.
Modkins shot the lights out with nine points and two 3-pointers in the quarter as Solis was forced to navigate throughout the game with her top players in foul trouble.
With Bekelja, 6-2 center and college recruit Valencia Myers, 5-11 Alexis Stover, plus sharpshooter Gabby Mitchell, Solon has plenty of weapons.
It was Modkins who helped Solon on a damaging 14-3 run from late in the third period as she buried a 3-point bomb off a feed from Bekelja to make it 40-37 with 7:39 left in the game.
After Myers converted a 3-point play on a post-up move with 6:59 left, Modkins canned another triple to make it 46-40 at the 5:22 mark.
Twinsburg had some quick shots and also missed a couple of easy hoops during the cold-spell.
"We have been preaching about doing the small things, and we did that, and then they went on a run," said Solis. "Fouls were a factor. We just need to finish better."
Another dish from Bekelja to Modkins (11 points) resulted in a layup on a nice cut by Modkins to make it 48-40 with 2:58 left.
After Twinsburg's Alana Ellis missed a 3-point shot at the 2:05 mark, the Tigers missed on a hoop in traffic and fouled Modkins, who hit 1-2 free throws, but Myers got the offensive rebound that led to a Stover layup with 58.9 seconds left that swelled the lead to 51-40.
The Tigers still battled and finished the game on a fiery 7-0 run behind a 3-point bucket by senior Shaundrea Butler, and layups by senior Jailyn Reid and Ellis.
It was too late for the Lady Tigers, who were led by Butler, who poured in 18 points.
Solis saw her troops struggle again at the free throw line with a 7-of-14 effort while senior Jasmine Bishop fouled out with 29 seconds left and Reid followed 13 ticks later, and Butler also had four.
Butler, the Tigers lead guard, hit for 13 points in a big-time first half and she also had three steals and two 3-pointers.
Forward Dasja Anderson is another Tiger senior, who will be sorely missed along with Butler, Reid, Bishop, and Cydney Washington.
Anderson was a warrior on defense as she shut down Bekelja, who finally came alive in the third quarter with 13 points, many coming off full-court pressure defense.
The 5-10 Anderson showed great footwork and lateral movement against Bekelja, who was held to one free throw in the first period and only one assist in the entire first half.
Bekelja still ended with 20 points, eight boards, and three feeds, but she had to work for it against Anderson, who also was physical.
"Dasja did a great job on defense, but everybody did a good job on the defensive end," said Solis.
Anderson scored six points, snared 10 rebounds, had two assists and two thefts. Ellis was active for the Tigers and showed her progress as a freshman and had 11 points and four caroms.
An offensive board by Ellis put Twinsburg up 11-2 with 2:19 left in the opening period and Solon's first hoop came with 1:23 on a Myers post-up. The Tigers had an 11-5 edge on the boards in the period.
Ellis hit a 3-pointer on a pass from Bishop with 4.9 seconds left to make it 16-4 as Solon managed just one field goal.
As Twinsburg used a four-corner spread offense, Butler buried a triple as the buzzer sounded at the end of the first half to make it 27-22 as the Tiger bench erupted and charged onto the court.
Reid, Butler and Bishop all were whistled for their fourth fouls in the third period as the game featured a slew of charging and player control fouls on both clubs.
Myers finished with 13 points, 10 boards, three blocks and two steals.
In her final game, Bishop had four points and five caroms, plus physical defense on Myers in the paint. Reid had three points and dished out three assists, plus sophomore Nya Bussey (four points, three boards) and junior Trinity Carthen (one free throw) also helped.
"The seniors were fun to work with and I saw a lot of growth and maturity through the years I will really miss them," said Solis.
The Tigers fought past fourth seed Shaker Heights (12-12) in the district semifinals Feb. 27 at Euclid by a score of 47-38.S
Twinsburg beat Shaker by 13 earlier in the year, but 5-foot-11 college recruit Jamir Huston did not play.
Thanks to Bishop, junior post Brittany Jolly, and Anderson, Twinsburg held Huston scoreless in the first half with two boards, and saddled with three fouls. The Tigers led 22-15 at the half.
Shaker got within two at 31-29 heading into the fourth and a bucket in the paint by Huston gave Shaker its first lead, 35-33 with 5:23 left.
However, Twinsburg used its spread offense and got into transition to forge a huge 12-2 spurt to seal the win.
Before fouling out, Reid made a huge impact with 11 points, all coming in the second half.
Butler had nine points while Anderson scored eight while Bishop defended well, had six points, eight boards, and two feeds.
Excelling on defense, Bussey had six points, six steals, and four boards. Ellis added four points and seven boards, plus Carthen had three points.
Shaker had 15 offensive rebounds, five by Huston. She had 10 points all in the second half to go with nine boards. Anajiah Wallace led Shaker with 11 points.