Western stuns Clearcreek to reach regional title game

Mark Hazelwood • Updated Mar 8, 2018 at 2:09 AM

LEXINGTON — Nerve-wracking, but nothing new.

The Western Reserve girls basketball team was nearing a stunning comeback in Wednesday’s Division III regional semifinal game vs. Amanda-Clearcreek, and senior Brooke Ommert couldn’t hear herself think.

She had just stolen the ball near halfcourt and was fouled with 1:04 left, sending her to the free-throw line.

“My teammates were there to calm me down and tell me I would be fine,” Ommert said. “But it’s definitely nerve-wracking, it was so loud.”

She split the pair to put the Roughriders up for the first time since the first point of the game, and steady senior guard Andrea Robson helped finish off a 34-30 win at Lexington High School.

The win improved Western to 23-3 overall and puts it one win away from the state semifinals. The Roughriders will face powerhouse Ottawa-Glandorf (24-2) — ranked No. 9 in the final Associated Press state poll — at 1:30 p.m. Saturday back at Lexington.

With 6:59 left in the game, Western trailed the Aces (21-6) by a 26-17 margin. But a quick answer and another big 3-pointer by Andrea Robson — on a night she could barely attempt a shot — started a stunning 17-4 run to close out the win.

Western has won its last three tournament games by a combined 10 points to reach its second-ever regional title game.

“Experience. We took a couple of timeouts, and each time we talked, you could just see it in the kids’ faces,” Western Reserve coach Brett Robson said. “They weren’t done yet, and all we needed was that break to get the ball in the bucket.

“Once we were able to do that, things opened up for us,” he added.

Leading 21-17 entering the fourth quarter, the Aces got a fifth 3-pointer from Alyssa Evans, who scored 20 of her team’s 30 points. Evans was 7-of-17 shooting and scored 71 points over the Aces’ final three games.

Brooke Bolin then put the Roughriders down 26-17 with 6:59 left. But just 11 seconds later, the momentum shifted.

Robson, a 1,000-point scorer and All-Northwest District first team selection, had just three shot attempts through three quarters and was scoreless.

But she drained a 3-pointer that was nothing but net to make it a 26-20 game — then senior Brooke Ommert followed the lead.

Her 3-pointer from the left corner with 5:55 left brought Western within 26-23, though Clearcreek briefly stemmed the tide with a basket and a 28-23 lead just 24 seconds later.

But Ommert came down and made a 3-pointer from the same spot on the floor, pulling the ‘Riders within 28-26 with 4:30 to go.

Evans scored her final basket with 3:42 left — but freshman Mckenna Woodruff made a short jumper to keep Western within two (30-28). It appeared the Aces were going to spread the court and start working the clock, but a turnover gave the ball back to Western.

Out of a timeout, junior post Cora Wyers put up a shot from the right side to tie the game with 1:48 left and send the crowd into a frenzy.

Before Clearcreek could even get the ball past halfcourt, Ommert had poked the ball free for a steal and was fouled.

She made the first for a 31-30 lead, but missed the second. But with a chance to get the lead back, the Aces again came up with an empty possession — then Robson put an ironic finish to the game.

At just 5-foot-5 and as the season and career 3-point leader at the school, Robson found herself under the basket on the right block for a clean look over a defender that was four inches taller.

She put it in from close range with 36.1 seconds left to put Western up 33-30.

“They went into a 1-2-2 and really shifted up, and I looked up and there was no one by me,” Andrea Robson said. “And I was like, ‘Alright, that works.’ I think I was taking the shot before I even caught it.

“It kind of slipped out of my hands — but it was a great pass by Brooke, she added.

After a missed shot by the Aces, Robson was fouled with 12.1 seconds left and split the pair for the final 34-30 margin.

After 1-0 lead at the 5:56 mark of the first quarter, Western didn’t lead again until 64 seconds remained in the game.

“We just go possession by possession,” Andrea Robson said. “We were basically down for 31 minutes tonight, but we kept it close and regrouped in that last minute. That is something we practiced the entire season.”

Ommert finished with nine points, five rebounds and three assists to pace Western. Wyers added seven points, and was again a huge presence on defense with four blocked shots. Andrea Robson added six points and five rebounds despite just five shot attempts.

“I just think it shows our mental toughness,” Ommert said. “Even though we get down, we never stop fighting. We always fight back.”

After bottoming out at 1-20 in 2014, Western improved to 3-18, to 11-11, 18-4 — and now 23 wins and a spot in the regional championship game.

“Give 100 percent of the credit to the kids, their experience and the ability to pull this one out,” Brett Robson said. “It’s the kids and their work ethic and the commitment they made to get better. Now, here they are.”

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