Panthers upset Buchtel, head to district final

Norton’s girls basketball team defeated Buchtel 61-42 in the district semifinals.

The win avenged last season’s season-ending loss to the Griffins in the district final. Norton improved to 18-6 and advances to the district final Saturday, Feb. 29 versus Northwest at Lake High School, 7 p.m.

“We played well, that’s the highest scoring game we played all year,” said Head Coach Brian Miller. “We executed, we worked hard in practice to prepare. We felt slighted because we didn’t get a higher seed. The kids were pissed about it and I was for them, we’re good. But we had to prove to people that we’re the best team. We beat the top team and now we have to come back and beat the 2-seed.”

Bailey Acord led the team with 16 points while Kaylee Murawski had 15 points. Gabriella Destefano (11 points) and Riley Ballinger (10) also scored double-digit points. “We have great guards, and Murawski has played well, Destefano played great tonight. Ballinger had 10 points and Acord was amazing tonight on offense, she did a lot of good things.”

Miller was happy with sophomore Bailey Shutsa, who scored 6 points and played a big part in holding star Buchtel guard Javaan Rogers to 11 points. “Shutsa didn’t have to score, everybody else was doing it, so she did what she was supposed to do, which was taking care of the ball, handle their pressure and distribute, and she did that,” Miller said. “She was awesome out there tonight and she defended. She’s a great defender and that’s why Buchtel struggled, Shutsa stayed on the floor and didn’t get into foul trouble. I think Javaan was frustrated tonight, we do that to people.”

The team was excited for the win, but now looks to get back to regionals with a win versus Northwest, a team that played a part in voting Norton down to the four-seed during tournament voting. “It was a great win, but we’re not done,” Miller said. “We’re going to get a piece of Northwest next. Look, they’ve had a nice year. We’re district championship hungry all the time, that’s what we play for. Here we are with a chance to win another one. I couldn’t ask for a better situation, my young players are all coming back (next year) and we have good players coming (from eighth grade). But our girls are hungry to get back to Barberton for regionals. That was their goal from the beginning of the year and now we have a chance to achieve it.”