Mooney coach Roy Nard called Ron Moschella's team "probably the best he's had."
By JOE SCALZO
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
YOUNGSTOWN -- Boardman sophomore Amber Bland has led the Spartans to victory before.
On Saturday night, she carried them.
Bland scored 31 of Boardman's 45 points -- including its last nine -- as the Spartans withstood a Mooney comeback to beat the Cardinals 45-32 at Mooney High School.
"I don't pay attention to how much I score," Bland said. "Me and [Ashlee] Russo, we lead the team and we know how to push them forward."
Supporting role: Russo added 10 points and five assists for the Spartans, who shot 14-for-45 (31 percent) from the floor and 14-for-27 (52 percent) from the line.
"We were real lackadaisical," Boardman coach Ron Moschella said. "We missed a lot of shots and after the first quarter they were a lot more aggressive on the boards and going after loose balls."
Of course, by the time the first quarter was over, Boardman (8-1, 4-0 Steel Valley Conference) had all but beaten Mooney.
The Spartans scored the game's first 10 points and forced eight Cardinal turnovers in the first quarter to take an 18-4 lead.
"This is probably Ron's best team he's had and I think we were a little intimidated at first," Mooney coach Roy Nard said. "I thought we played really well. We could have run and hid after being down 18-4."
Boardman scored just one point in the first five minutes of the second quarter and the Cardinals (6-4, 0-3) went on a 10-4 run to cut the lead to 23-14 before Russo hit two free throws to make it 25-14 at the break.
"The key was Brittany Durkin sat down with her second foul in the second quarter," Moschella said. "That took us out of our momentum and hurt our defensive pressure. She's a very big key."
Cardinals comeback: The Spartans missed their first six shots of the third period. Aieshya Dixon scored six of her 15 points during an 8-2 run that cut Boardman's lead to 27-24 with two minutes left in the period.
But Russo scored the next five points and Boardman led 32-24 at the end of three.
Mooney cut the lead to 36-32 with four minutes left in the game but ran out of gas as Bland took over.
"We don't have a lot of depth and the kids were tired," Nard said. "Bland made a couple great plays and Russo was solid. They're a great 1-2 punch."
Dixon, the school's all-time leading rebounder, had 14 rebounds and three blocks. Megan Maloney added 10 points.
Maloney made her 24th consecutive free throw in the fourth quarter to break Don Gahagan's school record of 22 set in 1972. She broke the girls record in Mooney's previous game against Maplewood on Dec. 29.