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MERCER COUNTY Sharon stages big comeback, tips Grove City for 17th win



Published: Fri, February 1, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The Tigers climbed out of a 20-point hole to a 63-58 victory that kept them undefeated in the league.

By BILL ALBRIGHT

VINDICATOR CORRESPONDENT

SHARON, Pa. -- There are comebacks, and there are big comebacks.

Trailing by 20 points at the end of the first period, Sharon High rallied for a 63-58 win Thursday over Grove City in a battle of previously-undefeated Mercer County Athletic Conference teams.

Sharon (17-1, 3-0) cut nine points off its deficit in the second period and seven more in the third, before posting a 27-18 advantage in the final quarter for the win.

"I wanted to go home," said Sharon coach Mary Jo Staunch after the early explosion by the Eagles. "I don't know whether it was nerves or whether we were trying too hard. We were just turning the ball over and never got any kind of offense going."

Key matchup: The game featured a matchup of two of the premier players in the MCAC -- Grove City's Chelsea Smith and Sharon's Julie Bell. Although both players had their good moments, Bell and the Tigers had the advantage at the end.

During the first half, the edge belonged to Smith as she scored 14 of her team-high 20 points, while Bell picked up three quick fouls and was held scoreless. With Bell on the bench, Smith also dominated on the glass, finishing with 11 rebounds.

"We got off to a great start, but they just made an outstanding comeback," said Grove City (16-4, 2-1) coach Roger Flynn. "We held Julie [Bell] scoreless for the first half. She had three fouls on her early and we went right at her, but she stayed in there the whole game and had an outstanding half."

Foul trouble: During the first few minutes of the third period, Smith picked up her third and fourth personals and had to spend a good amount of time on the bench.

"That was the time they caught us and passed us," Flynn said. "Any time we lose Chelsea, we are not going to be nearly as good a team as we are with her."

Down the stretch, Bell scored all 19 of her points and grabbed 12 boards to lead the Tigers (17-1) to their big win.

"When she was sitting over here [on the bench], I told her that if there was ever a time she needed to be a leader, it is now," recalled Staunch. "When I reminded her that her teammates were working their butts off until she could get back into the game, I could tell by the look in her eyes she realized she needed to do it."

Picked up slack: In Bell's absence, Nicole Valentino and Erin Leyde picked up the slack. Valentino finished with 20 points, 13 of which came in the second half, while Leyde added 16 points for the Tigers.

"She [Valentino] really stepped up and did the job for us," said Staunch. "I told her we needed her to take charge of things out on the floor and she did that and more.

"She played an outstanding game for us, and I thought my guards did an outstanding job as well. Ali [Szabo] came in and played a solid game and Erin [Leyde] and Nicole [Valentino] held things together until Julie got back in there."

For Grove City, Amber McFeely (14 points) and Shannon O'Neil (11) joined Smith in double figures.




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