ASHLAND — A nightmarish fourth quarter brought an end to Shelby’s dream season.
Willard outscored the second-seeded Whippets 12-2 during the final period and avenged a regular-season loss with a 49-44 win Thursday in the Division II district semifinals at Arrow Arena.
The third-seeded Flashes (20-4) will play No. 4 Sandusky Perkins for a district title at 7 p.m. Saturday. Perkins upset top-seeded Bellevue 63-59 in Thursday’s early game.
Shelby (22-2) led 42-37 going to the fourth quarter and 44-43 after a pair of Sydnie Seibert free throws with 2:05 remaining, but the Flashes closed on a 6-0 run to reach the district championship game for a second straight year.
“We did not play well in the fourth quarter. That’s on us,” Shelby coach Natalie Lantz said. “We were very impatient. We needed to work for better shots. We were standing instead of making good cuts to get open.
“I think I could have called 50 timeouts and I’m not sure I could have got the energy out of them tonight that we needed.”
Willard’s Cassie Crawford jump-started the fourth-quarter comeback when she banked in a 3-pointer with 6:16 remaining to cut Shelby’s lead to 42-40. A Layla Dials’ trey with 2:27 to play gave the Flashes a 43-42 lead before Seibert stemmed the tide momentarily when she connected on a pair of free throw attempts.
On Willard’s next possession, Crawford grabbed her own miss and scored on a putback while being fouled. She missed the free throw, but the Flashes reclaimed the lead at 45-44 and never trailed again.
“There were a couple of rebounds that both teams could have got to and we got those boards. We got those steals and we got those loose balls,” said Crawford, who scored a game-high 19 points. “We made those hustle plays that we needed to top them.”
The Whippets trailed 13-8 after one and 23-21 at the half, but outscored the Flashes 21-14 in the third. Shelby was unable to maintain the momentum into the fourth quarter.
“It’s survive and advance and they came out and played with a lot more energy than we did,” Lantz said. “We forced some really bad shots and we just didn’t work for the good look. We weren’t moving much offensively.”
Emma Randall led Shelby with 15 points. Olivia Baker added 10.
Shelby will lose four seniors to graduation.
“What a great couple of years here back-to-back,” Lantz said. “Going 44-5 the last two years, it’s something special.
“They leave a legacy and a tradition for the younger kids to carry on.”