UNION TOWNSHIP - Southwest Ohio Division II girls top seed Roger Bacon dispatched Shroder with ease Wednesday evening with the postseason running clock rule going into effect in the second half.
University of Cincinnati signee Clarissa Craig dominated underneath, finishing with 28 points in the 64-20 victory.
Instituting the speed-up process easily kept Roger Bacon under 80 points as the Lady Spartans were finding the net with regularity. Minus it, they may have had a season-high in scoring and Craig may have reached 30 points.
Making it more impressive, Roger Bacon won handily without four-year starting guard Kylee Sheppard who remained on the bench injured.
"My team is really stepping up while Kylee's out," Craig said. "I'm proud of every one of my teammates. "
Despite the running ticker, Craig tied her career-high with 28, including an impressive 10-for-11 from the charity stripe. She's raised her free throw percentage from 48 as a freshman, to 55, to 65 to over 72% this season. It came with a little verbal encouragement from coach Joe Finnegan.
"I've been working on that all summer," Craig said of her free throw prowess. "I thank my teammates for getting me the ball and looking for me."
Finnegan's Lady Spartans now play Indian Hill next Monday night back at West Clermont High School for the chance to advance to the Middletown district which begins Saturday, Feb. 27 at Mason High School.
Craig, a University of Cincinnati signee for coach Michelle Clark-Heard, was recently voted District 16 Player of the Year by coaches. First-Team All-District guard Kylee Sheppard is heading to Providence. Sheppard sat out Wednesday's game with an ankle injury and hasn't played since a Feb. 1 loss at Alter.
"The kids have really battled through that and we're looking forward to getting her back," Finnegan said. "She went out in the first minute of the game (vs. Alter). When you have Kylee, it's tough to press us. They had to learn how to play the game and do things the right way. They've done a great job and I'm really proud of them."
Sheppard is on schedule to return for next Monday's game with Indian Hill. Finnegan said once Roger Bacon knew they'd get Sheppard back, the girls quickly regained their confidence. They've now won five straight since her injury.
Among those stepping up are Krystin McWhorter, a sophomore who made All-District Second Team, according to coaches. Sammi Hoffman is also Greater Catholic League-Coed Second Team.
Wearing No. 40 and standing 6-foot-3, Craig is a powerful pivot and tops the league in scoring. Coming into Wednesday's tournament tilt she averaged 17.8 points per game. She's also the league-leader in blocks (1.3) and second in rebounds (8.8). She's already the school rebounding leader and will pass 2020 graduate Kelly Brenner (Thomas More) as the school's all-time scoring leader with just four more points. She originally committed to the Bearcats in Sept. 2019.
"I'm so excited!" Craig said. "We're going to build something great at the University of Cincinnati."
Future Friar Sheppard is fourth in scoring at 13.8 points per game and third in assists at 3.3 per game. Finnegan will lose both Craig and Sheppard to graduation after the season ends. Sheppard will also leave as Roger Bacon's top points and goals leader in soccer.
"I talk to them pretty much every day," Sheppard said of Providence. "They pretty much know the situation and they're just supporting me."
McWhorter is a 6-foot-2 sophomore who helps Roger Bacon bang the boards. Hoffman is a 5-foot-9 forward and three-point threat along with senior Sheppard.
Should Roger Bacon defeat Indian Hill next, they'll face either No. 3 seed Fenwick or No. 4 seed Badin who also play Monday night. Both schools come from Roger Bacon's Greater Catholic League-Coed Division. Bacon swept Badin during the season and split with Fenwick, last losing 60-47 on Jan. 30 on the road.
The goal is to surpass the 2020 season when they won their first district title in 15 years and won a regional semi on a last-second shot. That dream ended March 6 in a regional final against Dayton Carroll, also of the GCL-Coed. Less than a week later the basketball season stopped for all due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Finnegan's flock feels the momentum of last season and is hoping for a special ending to a hard-fought, trying season.
"I actually feel a lot more momentum now not playing and just watching," Sheppard said. "We're not as talented but these girls have a lot more go. We're running more. I think when I come back I'm going to add to that and we're going to keep going forward."
SHRODER 8 5 1 6 20
ROGER BACON 20 24 15 5 64
RB - Hoffman 2 0 6 McWhorter 3 2 8 Ernst 3 0 9 Kinsley 1 0 2 Huber 1 0 2 Craig 18 10 28 Humphrey 4 2 10
S -Mincy 3 1 7 Lee 1 0 2 Brown 1 0 2 Smith 3 1 9