And the Bellevue girls basketball team couldn’t stop Toledo Rogers once the Rams got going.
An 80-second stretch to close the first half proved critical in Friday’s 60-45 Division II regional championship game loss at Pete Henry Gymnasium at Mansfield Senior High School.
The Lady Red — ranked No. 2 in the final Associated Press poll — close the season with a 25-2 record. The No. 6-ranked Rams (25-3) move on to the state semifinals next weekend at Ohio State University in Columbus.
Trailing 17-11, Bellevue went on an 11-0 scoring run over a 4:45 stretch of the second quarter to take a 22-17 lead.
But a couple costly decisions in the final 1:20 of the first half allowed the Rams to score the last six points of the first half to take a 23-22 lead.
Rogers then put together a 12-0 scoring run — and a 23-4 scoring spree over a 6:07 span of the second and third quarters to open up a commanding 40-26 lead by the 3:13 mark of the third.
After Rogers standout Zia Cooke scored on a running layup with 1:20 left in the first half to make it a 22-19 deficit — and stop a 6:11 drought for the Rams — Bellevue coach Kory Santoro wanted his team to take the final shot of the first half.
Instead, the pressure of the Rams got the Lady Red out of sorts, who took two missed shots that led to transition baskets for Rogers.
That quick, the game when from Bellevue up five with two straight chances to go up three possessions in the final 90 seconds of the first half to down a point at halftime.
“We told them we were taking one shot, and there was about 40 seconds to go,” Kory Santoro said. “Instead we took two shots I didn’t think were very good in that situation. We’ve done that throughout the tournament.
“We have young kids who have to learn those situations,” he added. “We go into halftime up five, or even seven or eight points — that’s a huge difference. They had a lot of momentum going into halftime instead.”
Bellevue matched the Rams with a couple early baskets in the third, and trailed 28-26 at the 6:08 mark of the third. But the Rams reeled off the next 12 points to go up 40-26, as the trio of Cooke, Madison Royal-Davis and Tanaziah Hines hurt the Lady Red.
The 21-8 third quarter difference allowed the Rams to take a 44-30 lead into the final eight minutes.
“We always tell our girls, the first four minutes of the second half has to be our best four minutes of the game,” Kory Santoro said. “And tonight we didn’t do that. We really struggled to buy a basket and stop them for a good six or seven-minute stretch instead.”
Rogers opened the fourth with four straight free throws to push the lead to 48-30, but the Lady Red battled back to stay within striking distance.
Twice Bellevue cut the deficit to 12, and once to 11. All three times the Lady Red had possession with a chance to cut the margin to single digits, but came up empty.
“I credit the girls. They played hard to the end, we got it to 10 or 12 and had chances to get even closer, but we just couldn’t get a stop or a shot to get it down more,” Kory Santoro said. “Rogers is a good team, but I can’t fault these kids. It’s a homegrown team, kids who have grown up and played together — and I’m proud of them.”
Bellevue trailed 15-8 with 1:38 left in the first quarter, then reeled off 14 of the next 16 points to go up 22-17.
Down 17-11, Casey Santoro, Payton Vogel and Cory Santoro strung together six straight points to tie the game — then Cory Santoro drained a 3-pointer to put the Lady red up 20-17. Riley Mohr added a basket to make it a 22-17 lead, but then Bellevue wasn’t able to extend the lead out further.
Cory Santoro scored 19 points for Bellevue, with Vogel adding 10 points and seven rebounds.
Cooke and Royal-Davis each had 19 points, while Hines had 16 points to combine for 54 of the 60 points for the Rams.
“We didn’t match their intensity for about six minutes, and it’s where we lost the game,” Kory Santoro said. “Hines is a tough matchup, she’s big and tough to keep out of the paint.
“We got beat by those three girls, they were very good,” he added. “They’v been doing it all year for them, and they made a difference.”