The Indians defeated Hubbard 56-49, avenging their only loss of the season.
By BRIAN RICHESSON
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
GIRARD -- The Girard High girls basketball team is crashing the Trumbull Athletic Conference party.
In only their second year as a TAC member, the Indians have become the talk of the league in girls basketball this season. They proved it again Thursday.
Leading nearly the entire way, Girard defeated visiting Hubbard 56-49 in front of a near-capacity crowd to take a major step toward winning the league title.
"We wanted this game," said Girard junior Stephanie Scarnecchia, who scored a game-high 22 points. "This is our second year in the TAC and we wanted to show that we belonged."
Clinch within reach: The Indians (17-1, 13-1), who took a half-game lead on Hubbard, can clinch the title with victories over winless LaBrae and Lakeview. The Eagles (16-3, 13-2) finish their TAC schedule against LaBrae.
"I told the girls to take their energy -- don't be nervous -- and just get mad. Go out there and play hard," Girard coach Andy Saxon said.
Girard has come a long way since its 61-56 overtime loss to Hubbard in the first meeting Jan. 3. Saxon preferred to look at the Indians' growth over a longer span.
"Last year we were only 5-15, so this team has made a heck of a turnaround in one year," Saxon said. "As [this] season went on, they matured. They realized their roles, what they can and cannot do, and that's important for a team concept."
Girard's success doesn't come as a surprise to Hubbard coach Dave Konczal.
"They've always been a good [Metro Athletic Conference] team," Konczal said. "What Andy did was play a bunch of young kids last year, and he knew they'd take their beating. But he knew it would pay off for him this year."
Biggest play: Scarnecchia provided possibly the biggest play down the stretch for Girard, which is ranked 14th in the Division III state poll.
She drove to the basket, scored and was fouled for a three-point play that increased Girard's lead to nine (49-40) with 4 minutes, 17 seconds remaining.
Although the Eagles cut their deficit to six twice more, Scarnecchia's play, which ignited the crowd, symbolized Girard's dominance throughout the game.
"Once you're down [nine] again, it's pretty tough, and you're relying simply on 3-pointers," said Konczal, who also felt his team took a beating on the boards.
Tealle Hunkus added 18 points and 12 rebounds for the Indians.
"Every game, someone else is stepping up," Saxon said. "That's the luxury we have. We have a well-rounded team."
Despite tying the score twice (9-9 and 15-15) in the first half, Hubbard never led in the game. The Eagles fell behind by 15 in the third quarter before rallying to within five points (45-40) with five minutes to play.
Missed shots: "In the first three quarters we had good shots, but we missed them," Konczal said. "We didn't make them until the fourth quarter."
But Cachet Murray made a free throw, Scarnecchia completed her three-point play and Hunkus scored from underneath the basket to give Girard an 11-point lead, 51-40, with 2:50 remaining.
Hubbard was led by Lynlee Cornell with 12 points and Anna DeJulio with 11. Katy Jo Mroski grabbed 15 rebounds.
"[Hubbard] started coming back and hitting some 3s," Saxon said. "The girls were able to weather the storm. We came back with a couple of big plays, a couple of fast breaks. The rest is history."