Caywood, Riders Claim Second Straight Sectional Crown

St. Marys' Carly Caywood attempts a jump shot in the second quarter of Saturday's Division II sectional final against Shawnee.
Sports Editor

An preseason joke turned into motivation for St. Marys’ upperclassmen. Jokingly referred to as “has-beens” with the number of talented freshmen and sophomores playing at the varsity level, it fueled juniors such as Carly Caywood.

But there’s nothing to joke about with this team now, just ask Shawnee.

Caywood was unstoppable in the first quarter and clutch in the fourth as the junior helped guide the Roughriders to their second straight sectional title with a 44-30 victory over the Indians on Saturday.

“I just wanted to feel the same feeling that we felt last year,” Caywood said. “There was a nine-year drought til we got that feeling and I just want to make it a tradition.”

Caywood provided the points, Ally Will provided timely sparks to the offense and Lauren Cisco provided the leadership this team has been fortunate to have from those three players all year long

“It was actually,” Caywood said about the has-beens label serving as motivation. “It just allowed us to push harder especially for us upperclassmen to be leaders.”

And Caywood was one of those leaders on Saturday. She scored all put two points in the first quarter, outscoring Shawnee 10-9 and scored 14 of the first 18 points for the Roughriders, who led 18-12 after Kerri Roberson tied the game at 12-12 to open the second quarter with a 3-pointer.

After being shut out for the next 12:34 of the game, Caywood scored five of the game’s next seven points after Shawnee pulled within nine with 4:15 remaining in the game to pull away. Caywood finished with a game-high 20 points.

“She is tough to guard,” Roughriders coach Jon Burke said. “She can burn you on the outside and then in the inside and she especially did in that first quarter.

“Carly is a unique player. When she can play a post player like Trinity Gearing and come out and play in the perimeter on offense, that a is tough matchup for anybody. She had a great game and I am proud of her.”

St. Marys (13-10) will face Wapakoneta (13-10) in a district semifinal on Thursday at Paulding High School, a rematch Burke has been chomping at the bit to have again.

Caywood’s four points in the second quarter kept the Indians at bay, but Shawnee pulled within two when it opened the second half on 3-pointers by Roberson and Grace O’Connor with 5:57 left in the third quarter. But the Roughriders ended the quarter on a 10-2 run as the Indians shot just 2-of-9 in those final 5:57.

A late bucket by Trinity Gearing pulled the Indians to within eight at the end of the third quarter, but that was the closest Shawnee got, shooting just 3-of-11 in the fourth quarter and 5-of-20 in the final 12:57 of the game. St. Marys, however, finished 10-of-15 from the floor during that same duration.

Saturday’s win is the second straight sectional championship for St. Marys, after having none in the last nine years and just two in the past 11 years before last season. But the year began as if the Roughriders might not be able to reclaim that magic with 1-6 start until St. Marys ended the regular season with wins in nine of 12 games.

“At the beginning of the season, we weren’t getting wins, but every day in practice we were working hard, every single person was working hard because this is what we were working for the entire season,” Caywood said.

Caywood added that Burke’s redemption tour banner served as a catalyst for turning the season around and served as additional motivation for the once-called has-beens.

“Every night, we would pick someone who would cross a team off and as upperclassmen, we strive to be that player and that’s what I strived to be tonight,” she concluded.

Saturday’s win also sets up an epic showdown between Wapakoneta and St. Marys. The Redskins escaped a loss at Memorial High School in overtime back in December. Wapakoneta has won 11 straight against the Riders, including the last six postseason matchups.

“In the beginning of the year when we played Wapak, we felt like that game slipped away,” Burke said. “We had a three-point lead with 27 seconds to go, we ended up losing it in overtime. We have improved and we know that Wapak has improved and our teams matchup so well that this is going to be a huge fight.

“We want that one back, we really want it back.”