Crystal Schuler's strong finished helped the Raiders to a 44-38 win that kept them tied for the league lead.
By GREG GULAS
LOWELLVILLE -- Crystal Schuler scored a team-high 15 points and Kelly James added 12, as the South Range High girls basketball team outlasted Lowellville 44-38 Thursday in an Inter-County League game.
"Crystal Schuler started slow and didn't have many good looks at the bucket early," South Range coach Don Feren said. "She finished strong though, hitting some key shots down the stretch for us when we needed them most."
Schuler's 15 points offset a game-high 21 points by Rockets' freshman Amanda Nero, whose five 3-pointers -- four in the second half -- kept her team in striking distance but weren't enough to give them the lead at the end.
The win kept the Raiders tied for the ICL lead with Western Reserve, both at 9-1.
Young team: "We are a youthful team and at one point tonight had two freshmen, two sophomores and a junior on the court during our stretch run," Lowellville coach Tony Matisi said. "While youth can give you the energy to get back into the game, it can also hurt you as we didn't make snap decisions when we needed to late in the game.
"We will learn and hopefully mature from this experience."
The first half was anything but the fast-paced game fans expected. The Raiders (15-1) got six points from James for an 8-4 lead after the first period. They then out-scored the Rockets 11-7 in the second period, with four points coming from James, as South Range took a 19-11 lead into the intermission.
Little offense: The Rockets (9-7, 5-5) managed just 11 points at halftime -- nine coming from Nero -- but used their stingy defense to limit Schuler to just three points while keeping her without a point for the first 14:37.
"Since they are dangerous from beyond the [3-point] arc, we felt that we needed to defend our perimeter," Feren said. "In doing so, however, it takes us out of our defensive game.
"We need to get better by next week because we have a tough stretch run."
Schuler scored four of the Raiders' first six points in the second half as they built a 23-14 lead, but the Rockets reeled off 10 of the next 14 points, six coming from Nero, to cut the lead to 27-24 with 2:21 remaining in the period.
Lead: When Schuler added a bucket 39 seconds later and Clayton connected on two free throws, it completed a 4-0 run that left South Range with a 31-24 lead heading into the final eight minutes.
"We played hard and gave it all we could tonight against one of the class teams in any division in our area," Matisi said.
Danielle Hvisdak's 3-point goal almost three minutes into the final period cut the Raiders' lead to 33-29, but South Range went on a 7-3 run to increase its margin to 40-32 with 1:51 remaining.
Nero then hit a 3-point goal 10 seconds later to cut the lead to five, 40-35, but that was as close as Lowellville got the rest of the way.
The Raiders held a 36-24 advantage on the boards, with Schuler grabbing a game-high 11.