Lady Panthers Defeat Elmwood in Instant Classic for District Title
The Delta Lady Panthers are headed to the OHSAA Girls DIII Regional Tournament for the second time in three years after beating the Elmwood Lady Royals in a heart-stopping, nail-biting, edge-of-your-seat District Championship game that was not decided until a long and improbable shot fell short as the final buzzer sounded. For the five seniors in the Class of 2021 that took the court to start the game, Ella Ford, Brooklyn Green, Reagan Rouleau, Braelyn Wymer and Brooklyn Wymer, it cemented their legacy as one of the most successful classes of girls’ basketball in the history of the Lady Panthers program.
There was not one point in the game where the Delta faithful had an opportunity to relax a bit and breathe easy. The contest had four ties and nine lead changes with the largest Panther lead at three points and the largest Royals lead at six points. Only after Braelyn Wymer was fouled with 2.9 seconds on the clock and the Panthers holding the thinnest of margins at 35-34, did Delta fans think “We just might win this.”
Wymer calmly walked up to the line, shooed away teammates who had come over to give her encouragement, and swished both shots to give her team a 37-34 lead which would be the final score. “I just wanted to pretend it was like any other free throw, it was just like practice,” said Braelyn. “We actually talked about that in practice on Friday. The coaches said if it comes down to that, it’s just like any other free throws. Just put them in.” Of course, they were not like any other shots she had ever taken in her career with so much on the line and the clutch conversions forced the Royals to heave the ball from so far away it never truly had a chance.
The Lady Panthers did not just defeat an ordinary opponent in the Elmwood Lady Royals. Elmwood was the #1 seed in this District, were champions of the Northern Buckeye Conference (NBC) and had the best player in the NBC in Brooklyn Thrash, a six-foot junior who had broken the school’s all-time scoring record in the game before against the Swanton Lady Bulldogs. They also had two front line players that measured out at 6’1” which negated a lot of inside scoring. Delta, seeded at #3 also had to beat the #2 seeded Eastwood Lady Eagles just to face the Royals.
Elmwood held the lead after each of the first three quarters but the margins were always thin at 6-5, 19-17 and 23-20. Every time the Royals seemed about to pull away, Braelyn would knock down one of her five three-pointers to keep her team close. She added four foul shots on five attempts to lead all scorers with 19 points. Overall, Delta saved their best for last by scoring 17 fourth-quarter points. Green had four of her eight and Rouleau scored five of her six in the deciding period. Thrash scored 16 points to lead the Lady Royals and Anna Barber added eight.
“It’s definitely bittersweet since it’s our last year, said Brooklyn Wymer. This has always been a goal of ours since the beginning of the season and now that it’s come true it’s truly great.” “Doing it together (seniors), twice now, it’s a great feeling,” added her sister Braelyn.
Obviously, it was a very special win for Delta Coach Ryan Ripke who has won a lot of games at the helm for the Panthers and never tires of cutting down nets. “It was very special,” said Coach Ripke. “After the District semi-final I told the girls, ‘You seniors won a District title two years ago and we did it by pressing teams from one end to the other for 32 minutes. We’re a different team and you’ve made this team your own identity. Now we’re winning different ways. And I think that’s just special because these five seniors had a rough ending to last season and it’s just very special to come back this year and win a District Championship.
Delta will be facing a familiar foe at Regionals in the Ottawa-Glandorf Lady Titans who defeated the Lady Panthers earlier in the season and enter the game with a 23-2 record compared to Delta’s 17-6. But there is no other place else this team would rather be. “We’re looking forward to a rematch,” said Ripke.
Pictured: Delta Lady Panthers – 2021 OHSAA Girls Basketball District Champions