MAINTAINING THE STANDARD
Hoban girls basketball ends season with fourth consecutive district title
After 14 district titles, Pam Davis could be excused for having a subdued celebration.
But when her Hoban Knights defeated Green 51-48 in a district final on Feb. 24, the veteran head coach couldn’t hide the joy.
“This was one of the most satisfying because we were not expected to win,” Davis said. “A lot of people counted us out.”
The Knights were district champions in each of Davis’ first three years at Hoban, including a state final four run in 2021 and an undefeated regular season a year ago. The outside expectations for Davis’ fourth year weren’t as lofty, but internal expectations remained the same.
“I liked Emma Rasmussen’s catch phrase - ‘Just Us’ - because it was just us who believed that we could defend our district title,” Davis said.
Hoban had lost several rotation players from the previous season, which meant Rasmussen and fellow seniors Rylee Bennett and Kennedy Arison would be counted on to provide much-needed leadership. All three were entering their fourth year of varsity basketball and had experienced plenty of success.
“Their roles all expanded significantly,” Davis said of her seniors. “They were asked to play major minutes, be productive at both ends of the floor, and mentor our younger players. We challenged them every day, and they did a fabulous job.”
The regular season was a roller coaster for the Knights, who faced one of the toughest schedules in the state. They endured some tough defeats and learned some lessons along the way, but the season also produced its share of highlights.
The first came on Dec. 11 when Davis recorded her 600th career victory after a 62-44 triumph over Berea-Midpark.
Wins over Walsh Jesuit and St. Joseph Academy propelled the Knights into the new year, where they erased a 21-point second half deficit to defeat Solon 79-74 in overtime on Jan. 4. Solon would end up being the top seed among three northeast Ohio Division I districts.
“We had a lot of ups and downs during the year, but the Solon game gave us confidence that we are a contender,” said Arison, who started at point guard this season after coming off the bench the previous three seasons.
Later that month, Hoban defeated Lakota West at the Classic in the Country, held at Berlin Hiland on Jan. 14 with a large crowd and many college coaches on hand. After a tough loss to St. Vincent-St. Mary on Feb. 1, the Knights rebounded to win at Federal League champion Green in overtime on Feb. 6.
Both Hoban and Green knew that their regular season matchup could be a tournament preview, with both teams in the same district. For the Knights, it was just another test in a season full of them. The journey provided opportunities for growth in patience and perseverance.
“Our regular season prepared us for the postseason,” Davis said. “I think a big reason is we played teams from all over the state and saw a lot of different styles and types of personnel. We were put in situations where we were down at halftime and had to regroup.”
“I think our schedule built up our character so we could be who we were at the end of the season,” Rasmussen added. “I think we knew we were a good team, but we were so young. We had to create and show our identity. At the end of the season we found that identity and clicked.”
After dropping a close game to Western Reserve Academy to end the regular season, Hoban entered the tournament with a record of 12-9. They were sluggish in their sectional semifinal, trailing in the fourth quarter before escaping with a 43-33 win over Kent Roosevelt.
But the Knights saved their best for last, dispatching Cuyahoga Falls and Shaker Heights with ease before defeating Green a second time for their fourth consecutive district championship. All three of Hoban’s seniors felt a sense of pride in the accomplishment.
“It was one of the happiest moments I have had,” said Rasmussen. “I cried tears of joy. I really wanted to leave here with my fourth district title.”
“This year was a lot more special because we faced more adversity this year than previous years,” Bennett added. “The others felt good, but this one felt a lot better.”
Hoban’s season ended at 16-10 with a regional semifinal loss to Grafton Midview on Feb. 28. Despite the loss, Hoban’s senior leaders could look back and hold their heads high, appreciating the role they played in helping the program maintain its standard of excellence.
“I wanted to be a person that the younger girls looked up to, because I had that when I was a freshman,” said Rasmussen, who will join her former Hoban teammate Hannah Schill ’20 on the basketball team at Marietta College next season.
Arison will play basketball at Westminster College, while Bennett intends to play college basketball but is currently undecided on her destination. All three seniors leave Hoban with countless memories that are more impactful than trophies or awards.
“Everyday being with my teammates, that will be something I remember,” said Bennett. “I love my team. They’re all my best friends. Just overcoming all the adversity this year is really what I will remember the most.”
Rasmussen expressed similar sentiments.
“Unforgettable,” she said of her Hoban basketball experience. “I will never forget going to the final four, our pregame meals, our dance parties in the locker room. I will miss the atmosphere of playing basketball at Hoban, but I’m really glad I came here.”