There may have been a sliver of doubt after two quarters about the outcome of Tuesday night’s Division II regional semifinal between powerful Bellevue and Bay, but all questions were answered a few minutes later.
Six different Bellevue players scored in the first 5 1/2 minutes of the second half and the Lady Red went on to blitz Bay 71-41 to advance to their fourth Elite Eight in six seasons.
“Getting your teammates involved is so fun,” said Bellevue sophomore guard Casey Santoro, who finished with 14 points. “When everyone can score it just makes things so much easier.”
Bellevue (24-2) connected on five 3-pointers in the first quarter and finished the blowout 11 of 18 from long range. Bay managed to make just 3 of 17 from 3-point range. In a nutshell, that was the ballgame.
“They just didn’t miss any shots,” Bay coach John Curran said. “We tried to jump out and play them a little bit tougher, then they drove by, so it was the worst of both worlds. When someone’s shooting like that and can break you down off the dribble as well, it’s just very difficult.”
Casey Santoro led four Bellevue players in double figures with 15 points, one more than her sister. Seniors Payton Vogel and Riley Mohr each added 12 points. Gabby Turner was Bellevue’s top rebounder with five.
Mohr came off the bench to hit four 3-pointers — two in the game’s first five minutes — and didn’t miss a shot.
“Got in my groove pretty early,” Mohr said.
“You just can’t key on Casey and Cory,” Bellevue coach Kory Santoro said. “P’s (Vogel) gonna hit shots, Riley’s gonna hit shots. We’ve got girls who can play and girls on that bench who are waiting to get in and fire away, too.”
Cory Santoro ignited the third-quarter onslaught with a ‘3’ 35 seconds into the half to give Bellevue a 31-19 lead. Less than two minutes later Turner capped an 11-0 run with a jumper in the lane. Vogel’s steal and layup and another ‘3’ from Mohr with 2:35 left in the period made it 46-23.
“We move the ball pretty well and gave everyone an opportunity to shoot,” Mohr said.
Bellevue’s biggest lead — 30 points — came with the final score after reserve Sage Garcia hit a crowd-pleasing ‘3’ with 42 seconds to go, followed by two Brynn Vogel free throws to cap the scoring.
Bellevue, as usual, got plenty of easy shots following turnovers. Bay gave it up 20 times; the Lady Red finished with 11 turnovers.
“Our half-court trap, our zone trap gave them fits to start with,” Kory Santoro said. “Then we went to a man-to-man three-quarter-court (defense) and that gave them fits, too. I don’t think we ever let them get settled in and catch any kind of rhythm.”
Bellevue scored 43 points in the second half for the second straight season in a regional semifinal. The burst last year led to a 71-60 win over Norton. On Tuesday, it triggered a blowout after Bellevue had built a 29-17 halftime lead.
“He told us the game wasn’t over and we needed to get it together,” Cory Santoro said of her dad’s halftime message. “They wanted it just as bad as us so that got us thinking we can’t stop here; we gotta get going. Our attitudes changed and we wanted to advance even more.”
Bellevue shot a solid 55 percent from the field for the game. Bay shot a respectable 46 percent, but allowed 27 points off of turnovers.
Senior Maddie Edgerly led the Rockets with 15 points and five rebounds.
Up next for Bellevue is old nemesis Toledo Rogers and star guard Zia Cooke, who beat Napoleon 51-42 Tuesday night. The defending state champion Rams have knocked Bellevue out of the tournament four of the last five seasons. The Lady Red, though, plan to show up for the 7:30 p.m. game Friday back at Mansfield Senior.
“We feel like this year we have more experience,” Mohr said. “Last year we had only two returning lettermen and now of our starting five and two more girls off the bench, we’re all returning lettermen. The stakes are higher now and we know what it’s like to come into this game.”
Cory Santoro plans to soak it all in and knows Bellevue’s boisterous crowd will be ready.
“It’s an awesome atmosphere,” she said. “You train for it the whole season so when you get there you’ve got to enjoy it.”
Cory Santoro 6-0—14, Gabby Turner 2-2—6, Payton Vogel 5-0—12, Casey Santoro 6-2—15, MacKenna Davis 2-0—4, Riley Mohr 4-0—12, Emma Bollinger 1-0—3, Alex Fiske 0 0-2 0, Brynn Vogel 0-2—2, Sage Garcia 1-0—3. TOTALS 27-6—71.
BAY VILLAGE (19-7)
Kayla Koz 1-0—3, Maddie Edgerly 7-1—15, Caroline Fowles 0-2—2, Audrey Hyland 1-0—2, Maeve Johnston 2-1—5, Barbara Aldridge 2-0—6, Chaeli Ziebart 1-0—2, Haley Andrejcak 2-2—6. TOTALS 16-6—41.
Bellevue 17 11 23 20 — 71
Bay Village 12 5 13 11 — 41
3-point FGs: (B) Cory Santoro 2, P. Vogel 2, Casey Santoro, Mohr 4, Garcia, Bollinger; (BAY) Koz 1, Aldridge 2