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AURORA -- Erika Greenberg saw it every day. And she got really sick of being reminded of it.
"I'm the P.E. teacher, and I have to look at that banner in the gym every day," the ninth-year Aurora girls basketball head coach said.
Well, Greenberg and her players got to experience a change of scenery. That's because the Greenmen won their first conference championship since 1927.
Host Aurora earned its first-ever Suburban League American Conference title after a 38-27 victory over Tallmadge on Feb. 15 on Senior Night.
The Greenmen, who won the Portage County League championship in 1927, shared the title with Revere, which posted a 38-27 win over Barberton on Feb. 15. Both Aurora and the Minutemen finished 10-2 in the conference.
"It's awesome," said Greenberg, whose team finished the regular season 16-6 overall. "They worked hard all season and it was one of our goals to win the league. They're a great group of kids."
The Greenmen, which also defeated the Blue Devils (17-5, 8-4) 32-28 earlier in the season in Tallmadge, won thanks to their defense, which has been their calling card throughout the season.
Aurora forced 23 turnovers and frustrated the Blue Devils' offense, which never really found its rhythm after the early stages of the first quarter. But the Greenmen did their most damage inside.
Thanks mainly to the play of senior guard Syarra Sellers, Aurora controlled the paint from start to finish.
Sellers, who along with senior guards April Davis, Sarah Marchese and Korie Hobbs, were honored prior to the game, finished with a game-high 14 points.She scored most of her points near the basket, as Tallmadge had no one who could keep us with her.
The standout forward was able to bank home a number of shots in traffic. A few of those baskets came off assists from her younger sister, sophomore guard Shayla Sellers.
"We made a bunch of goals at the beginning of the year," Syarra said. "We knew we had a lot of potential. We worked hard."
After a couple of 3-pointers by Blue Devils' senior guard Olivia Ayres early in the game, the Greenmen eventually took control with their defense.
Tallmadge had trouble getting open shots and thanks to Aurora's active hands, the Blue Devils constantly gave away a number of offensive possessions.
The Greenmen, on the other hand, were much more careful with the ball. Aurora finished with just 7 turnovers.
"Our defense was the key to winning the game," Syarra said. "The adrenaline also helped us."
The Greenmen started to take control with a 7-0 run early in the second quarter, giving them an 18-11 advantage.
Tallmadge, which had its last lead (9-8) late in the first quarter, had six turnovers and took just four shots in the second period. The Greenmen, who outscored the Blue Devils 10-4 in the second quarter, had a 23-15 lead at halftime.
Tallmadge got a little bit more offense in the third period, but again the Blue Devils had trouble keeping the ball in their hands.
Tallmadge lost the ball six times in the period. When the Blue Devils got somewhat close, Aurora always seemed to have an answer.
When junior forward Maia Aizpurua made a layup to cut Tallmadge's deficit to six (30-24), the Greenmen regained control with five straight points. All five of those points came off the smooth hands of Syarra Sellers, who concluded the mini run with a tough scoop shot in traffic off the glass.
The Blue Devils didn't have anything left after that.
Shayla Sellers scored 8 points and Davis and sophomore guard Haley Ross each had 7 points for Aurora. Neither team got too many free opportunities as only 8 foul shots were taken.
Ayres finished with 9 points on three 3-pointers. No other Tallmadge player scored more than 5 points.
As for the Greenmen seniors, the script couldn't have been any better. Four seniors got to experience a thrill of a lifetime before the game and then got to experience a long-awaited league championship when the buzzer sounded.
"It was the best Senior Night in history," Davis said. "We just worked harder and didn't slack off."
Two days before the Tallmadge game, the Greenmen faced Chardon (17-5) and lost a 74-39 decision. Dylynn Lasky paced the locals with 10 points, Julia Mazanec had 9 and Morgan Riedel added 6.
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