Poland’s girls basketball players knew who they needed to stop entering Monday’s Division II district semifinal game against West Branch.
However, Natalie Zuchowski still scored 21 points and grabbed nine rebounds for the Warriors when in a 47-25 victory at Austintown Fitch High School.
West Branch (24-0) advanced to Thursday’s district title game for the seventh time in eight seasons. The Bulldogs beat West Branch in 2016 to prevent them from making eight straight appearances to the title game.
The Warriors will play Howland for a regional trip.
Zuchowski punished Poland (18-5) inside. She overpowered the Bulldogs’ front-court on the low block, and when she couldn’t, started going to her hook shot.
“That’s where you just gotta hope your kids are there for the fight, and my kids were,” Poland head coach Nick Blanch said. “I’m very grateful for the effort my kids put forth tonight.
“All I asked them to do was fight like hell and they did that,” Blanch said. “For two-and-a-half quarters we’re nose-to-nose with the No. 1 team in the state of Ohio — not just the No. 1 team just in this bracket, No. 1 in the state of Ohio. And they’re that way for a reason.”
The All-American Conference is an OHSAA-sanctioned league, created in 2008 as the result of the merger between the Trumbull Athletic Conference and the Metro Athletic Conference in Ohio. The league has 21 different member schools, with 17 sports offered throughout fall, winter and spring sports seasons.