MINERAL RIDGE - United's Mackenzie Gatchel was lethal. Her 26 points led the Golden Eagles past the Champion Golden Flashes, 57-33, and gave United back to back Division III district final championships.
"Based on the other teams we played in the tournament, they (United) were the best outside shooting team," said Champion coach Jeff Thompson, whose team finished 16-10. "You have to pick your poison. You want to go out there and play hardcore man-to-man, they'll slice and dice you to the basket. In order to win, they had to hit their outside shots"
That is exactly how things got started for United - it hit their outside shots.
In the first 4 minutes of the game, the Golden Eagles rushed out to an 11-2 lead after three 3-pointers by Gatchel. Later in the quarter, Gatchel hit another 3-pointer to put United up 16-7 with a 1:30 to go in the first. Champion's Jordyn Skaggs hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to cut United's lead to 16-10 after the first quarter.
Midway through the second period, Gatchel hit her fifth 3-pointer of the half to give United a 21-12 advantage. Champion got within three points with 1:00 left in the second quarter, and then the Golden Eagles went on a 6-0 spurt to put them up at 27-18 at halftime.
Gatchel scored 16 points in the first half and felt in the zone when she made four 3-pointers in the first quarter.
"I just came ready to play today," Gatchel said. "My shot was on today. They kept on passing me the ball and I just kept on shooting. Today was the best I ever shot."
United (24-2) opened the third quarter on a 5-0 to amplify its lead to 32-18. Thompson believed the series of runs were critical.
"I think the biggest difference in the game was with a 1:30 to go in the half, we cut the lead 21-18. They (United) finished the half on a 6-0 run," Thompson said. "They started the third on a 5-0 run. I thought that (the runs) was huge."
After being down as much as 17, the closest Champion got in the third was 13 points. United led 42-26 at the end of three.
United played keep away during most of the fourth quarter to run down the clock. Champion went to a full-court press to try and create turnovers to chip away at the lead. Ultimately, the Flashes were not successful.
United coach Sam Mathias was thrilled to win the Division III district championship and is looking forward to playing in the regional semifinals.
"Our goal was to get back here to the district final to get us on the floor to play in regional semis again at Cuyahoga Falls," Mathias said. "We have to pick up the intensity come regional semifinals. We can't have any lapses on defense or offense. We have to play all 32 minutes."
Champion's Gabby Lamont led the team with 15 points. Mackenzie Kiser score 13 and grabbed nine rebounds. United's Emily Zehentbauer tallied 14 points.
United will face Orrville in the Division III regional semifinals at Cuyahoga Falls on Tuesday.