BOARDMAN Amber Bland's 35 points power Spartans

The sophomore scored 22 points after halftime as Boardman (19-1) closed the regular season.
BOARDMAN -- Senior Night inspired sophomore Amber Bland.
Looking on as senior teammates Ashlee Russo and Meagan Murray were honored before the game, Bland brushed aside her cold and Magnificat's deceiving defense to score 35 points and lead the Boardman High basketball team to a 58-47 victory Wednesday.
"If I was a senior, I'd really want to win the game on my home court and not let some other team come in here and take that victory away," said Bland, who scored 22 points after halftime.
Magnificat (13-7) seemed poised to ruin Boardman's night. The Blue Streaks double-teamed Bland often and slowed the Spartans with a combination of defenses to take a 26-25 halftime lead.
"We mixed it up defensively to try to keep them off-balance," Magnificat coach John Becker said. "It worked a little bit."
Boardman coach Ron Moschella said his team was getting beat down the floor in the first half.
"We took away their fast break, and I thought that was the key," he said.
On fire: Every time Magnificat tried to corner Bland, especially in the second half, the 5-foot-9 state high jump champion wiggled her way free and leaped toward the basket or drained a short jumper.
Bland, who made 11-of-13 free throws, scored Boardman's final eight points after Magnificat had cut its deficit to five (50-45) with just under four minutes remaining in the game.
Sophomore Brittany Durkin (nine points) came up big at the end of the third quarter to help erase the Spartans' deficit.
"Brittany Durkin is shooting the 3 really well now," Moschella said. "She's had so much confidence shooting the 3. She just believes in herself now."
Durkin hit back-to-back 3-pointers in a 52-second span late in the third as Boardman went from trailing by four (38-34) to leading by two (40-38). The Spartans (19-1) never trailed again.
"I don't think we really recovered from that," Becker said.
Russo, also hampered by a cold, added 13 points for Boardman.
"They're such gutsy kids," said Moschella, who also praised the defensive play of Murray and junior Jen Hlebovy.
Next: Boardman now will prepare for the Division I sectional-district tournament at Alliance High. As the No. 2 seed, the Spartans will face the Massillon Perry-Warren Harding winner next Wednesday to begin a tournament trail that they hope ends in Columbus.
The win over Magnificat, which was led by Colleen Eynon's 13 points, was the first step.
"Cleveland doesn't respect us," Moschella said. "Those schools up there don't respect Youngstown schools. We had something to prove tonight. They claim we play an easy schedule. I don't think we do."

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