SANDUSKY, Ohio – It’s been quite a trip for the Olmsted Falls girls basketball team.
“It was such a great time,” said coach Jordan Eaton. “In a year of just hearing a lot of excuses and scapegoats about COVID and this and that and this protocol, our kids have just done a great job keeping positive attitudes and making sure they get the most out of each opportunity that they had. “
Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, one of those occasions was a date with Grace VanSlooten and the Toledo Notre Dame Academy on a Division I regional final Saturday at Sandusky High School. VanSlooten, a 6-2 junior, had an amazing performance, scoring 25 points in just over 18 minutes of play and pulling 14 rebounds down to bring the Eagles to a 67:40 win and their third straight trip to the final four to lead.
When asked about trying to defend VanSlooten, Eaton first joked.
“She missed a couple of footage that I saw,” he said. “That didn’t really happen against us today.”
It must feel that way. VanSlooten was endowed with skills rarely found in girls’ high school basketball. He hit nine out of ten shots in the first half as Notre Dame took command in the second quarter on their way to a 39:22 lead at halftime. She hit spinning layups and pull-up jumpers. She got the ball on the court, trickled behind her back, and walked coast to coast after a defensive rebound.
She got a little back to earth in the third quarter, only going 3 out of 7, but all came within the first two minutes when she scored seven consecutive points to make it 46-22. VanSlooten didn’t try the rest of the game, but the damage had already been done. At this point she had outdone the entire Olmsted Falls team with 25:22 points.
“She’s elite,” said Eaton. “She is the next level. As a coach, losing is frustrating, but there is no doubt that you have to put your hat on to a kid like that.
“I just give her and her coaches and parents a lot of credit. Kids like this are usually full of themselves and she isn’t. She really is a special player. “
The opening quarter was relatively even. Olmsted Falls was just three, 18-15 after sophomore Mia Kalich scored a layup for her eighth point. The quarter ended with the Eagles in the lead, 22-15.
To start the second period, Notre Dame manager Travis Galloway switched to an active 2-3 zone that was sometimes trapped in corners and completely changed the game. After scoring 15 points in the first six minutes of the game, the Bulldogs only got 25 points the rest of the way.
“One of the most important things is that you have to get the ball up on the high post,” said Eaton. “I thought we were having trouble throwing it when I felt it was open, which is rather unusual for us. From then on, I just think that having confidence against it and being aggressive was a problem for us today. That was the big thing that produced some results. I think our girls were just a little shy at times. “
Eaton said the lack of aggression could have been the nerve attached to the greatest stage in any Bulldog’s career. He also blamed himself for not pushing for more aggression.
“We had a hard time being aggressive and getting 50-50 balls today,” he said. “I think that only speaks for their sportiness. Whenever the ball is in space and it’s a real sports team, they have a chance to get there first. They did that really well.
“If there is something you really want, be it basketball or life, you have to be the attacker. Defensively, we weren’t as aggressive as I thought we were, or as aggressive as I thought we’d be all season. “
Offensively, Olmsted Falls was led by two sophomores, Paige Kohler with 11 points and Kalich with eight. Seniors Grace Simon and Allison Milligan each had five points and classmate Lauren Galaska four when the three four-year-old letter winners played their final high school games.
“They have three conference championships, a district championship and 13 other best friends,” said Eaton. “That’s the greatest thing for me. They did a great job keeping the younger children under their wing and showing them how we want to do things in terms of effort, communication and togetherness. I can’t talk enough about Lauren, Grace, and Allison. I will miss these children like they are my children. You are exactly what I want to represent from Olmsted Falls Basketball. “