Ashlee Russo returnedfrom an injury and teamedwith Amber Bland to helpBoardman beat Hubbard.
By JOE SCALZO
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
HUBBARD -- With 3 minutes, 49 seconds remaining in the first quarter, Boardman High girls basketball coach Ron Moschella put senior Ashlee Russo into Thursday's game against Hubbard, expecting her to play three minutes.
Sometimes things don't go as planned.
Russo, sidelined all season because of an injured ankle, played the rest of the way, scoring 21 points to help the Spartans past Hubbard, 70-68.
"They're a very good team and we heard a lot about them," Russo said of Hubbard. "We took it as a challenge and we showed a lot of character."
Not to plan: The way Boardman won wasn't according to plan either.
With 53 seconds remaining in the third quarter, Hubbard (0-1) held a commanding 50-35 lead, thanks in part to the Eagles' defense. Hubbard forced the Spartans to shoot mainly perimeter shots, and Boardman struggled to get the ball inside.
But Boardman (3-0) began to press and trap on defense, and started attacking on offense, going on a 22-6 run that gave the Spartans their first lead since the first minute of the game.
"I just told them it's about character," said Moschella. "It's about being a good basketball team and not giving up. I think this win tells us we have a chance to be pretty good."
Downfalls: Hubbard, which had been in control for most of the game, had trouble dealing with Boardman's pressure, and Hubbard coach Dave Konczal pointed to his team's inexperience.
"This was their third game and our first and I think that showed," Konczal said. "We lost our attacking mentality and unfortunately, when you play a team as good as Boardman, you can't do that."
Spartan sophomore Amber Bland scored 34 points -- 21 in the second half -- and combined with Russo to score 34 of Boardman's final 38 points.
"I was thinking, 'Oh my gosh, we're gonna lose,' " said Bland, who had five steals. "But we pulled together as a team and as soon as we got it down to six [points], I knew we were going to win."
Hubbard junior guard Jami Duvall led the Eagles with 18 points and three steals, and sophomore guard Lynle Cornell added 13 points, but neither scored in the fourth quarter. Junior center Katy Jo Mroski added 13 points, four rebounds and a block for the Eagles.
"This does nothing but help us," Konczal said. "We lost to them by 20 last year and we went 14-2 in the league. We know we can play with the best."
Junior guard Anna DeJulio had 12 points, and kept Hubbard in the game in the fourth quarter by scoring nine points, including a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Shooting: Hubbard shot 21-for-42 (50 percent), and made 17-of-20 at the foul line.
Boardman shot 20-for-50 (40 percent), but made 28-of-33 free throws. Bland was 10-of-14 at the line and Russo hit 13-of-14.
"That's my game, getting to the free throw line," said Russo, who recently announced she will play at Youngstown State. "Amber and I play very well together and we finally started playing our game. That's Boardman basketball -- playing all out crazy."