Minster, Cornerstone Christian Has Many Similarities

Minster’s bench hopes to do more cheering on Friday in a Division IV girls basketball state semifinal against Cornerstone Christian.
Sports Editor

Entering Friday’s Division IV state semifinal girls basketball game, Willoughby Cornerstone Christian and Minster are two similar teams.

Both teams have at least a couple All-Ohio girls basketball selections, both have won their respected district championships each of the last four seasons and both have powered through tough schedules leading up to the showdown at Jerome Schottenstein Center.

“This game will be about taking away each team’s strengths and challenging somebody’s shot or making them rush as opposed to making someone uncomfortable and forcing them into a turnover situation,” Wildcats coach Mike Wiss said. “As you go further in the tournament, you are not going to see as many turnovers. It is going to be more about controlling rebounds to only give teams one shot and things like that become pretty darn important.”

The Patriots (24-3) will be making their first state appearance since 2016 when they lost 52-42 to the eventual runners-up Waterford — a team Minster beat in last year’s state semifinal.

Cornerstone Christian was a regional qualifier last season, losing to Buckeye Central to finish with a 20-6 record and 14-12-1 during the 2016-17 season. In the last four years, Cornerstone has a combined 80-27-1 record compared to 97-12 for Minster.

But Cornerstone Christian broke through this season with a revenge win against Buckeye Central in a regional semi and a victory against Dalton in a regional tournament that saw the Patriots allow just 61 points.

In breaking down their schedule, the Patriots won two big games on the road earlier this season by edging out previously unbeaten Perry and stunning St. Vincent-St. Mary. The Patriots finished ninth in the final Associated Press state girls basketball poll and reached as high as third place with three first-place votes in the Feb. 5 edition.

The Patriots have defeated No. 2 state-ranked Elyria Catholic 53-51, Euclid (15-8), Perry (21-5), the aforementioned St. Vincent-St. Mary (17-9) and have played Division I schools such as Archbishop Akron, who they lost to 42-34.

Minster’s only loss was to top-ranked Fort Loramie — who Minster defeated last week to advance to state — but also had wins against No. 3 ranked Tri-Village, No. 6 ranked Otttoville, Division II top-ranked and state qualifier Dayton Carroll (25-2), Division III No. 12 ranked Versailles and a season-opening win against Division II Valley View.

“Before we start the game on Friday, the first thing I will tell the girls is that our schedule will have prepared us for this,” Wiss said. “No. 1, you have to start with our league schedule and the players you go against every night. It is top of the line. Second, is our non-league schedule against WBL and several Shelby County schools and then you add to that Division II Dayton Carroll, Division II Bellevue — who lost in the regional final and Division II Valley View — who was also in the regionals.

“I speak very highly of the schedule that we have.”

Wiss added that Cornerstone comes from a different part of the state playing against bigger schools in its area against teams with a little different style of basketball.

“Both teams will try to take away the other team’s strength and we will see how that all works out,” Wiss said.

Cornerstone is averaging 60.9 points per game and allowing an average of 46.9 ppg, by comparison, Minster is averaging 52.7 ppg and allowing 30.4 ppg.

The Patriots don’t have exceptional depth but all five starters are capable of scoring in double figures. 

The starters are senior Lauren Harris (9.1 ppg), junior twins and All-Ohio selections Madison (12.9 ppg) and Michaela (8.6 ppg) Cloonan, All-Ohio junior Kailey Tyna (12.1 ppg) and All-Ohio sophomore Riley Stopp (13 ppg), the daughter of Patriots head coach Lisa Stopp.

Wiss pointed out, however, that Cornerstone does not have a true post player — not saying the Patriots do not play with a post — but they do not have an atypical player in the paint like most of the Midwest Athletic Conference teams Minster plays against.

“Their first group is very talented and they run the floor well,” Wiss said. “The Cloonan sisters are very athletic kids. They don’t have a true post player like we do with Courtney, so that might give them some matchup issues, but on the other hand, their athleticism is going to cause us some matchup issues.” 

The winner of Friday’s state semifinal will play the winner in the other semifinal game between Shadyside and Ottoville. 

The Wildcats defeated Ottoville to win last year’s Division IV state title.

“I’m sure that our girls feel, even the girls who didn’t get on the floor much last year, I think there is a comfort level where the girls feel like, ‘I have played on that floor before, I know it’s loud, I know its big,’” Wiss said when asked if his team’s experience will play a part in Friday’s game. “The first time you walk out there, that is a huge place and what is always the issue there is shooting because we are so used to shooting into walls. The gyms that we play around here have a block wall behind that bucket.

“So you have to be very intent on keeping your eye on where it is supposed to be and have a good follow through on your shots.”