Lowellville rallied from an 18-point deficit to stun Western Reserve, 63-53.
By BRIAN RICHESSON
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
BERLIN CENTER -- The most-anticipated game in the Inter-County League was turning sour for the Lowellville High girls basketball team.
Not only did the Rockets endure a 40-minute bus ride Thursday to Western Reserve, but their shooting touch was off early, they were plagued by foul trouble and they began bickering amongst themselves.
The Rockets' student section was even scolded by the public address announcer.
Could it get any worse?
Down, not out
Moments after Lowellville coach Tony Matisi was given a technical foul in a frenzied environment, Western Reserve took an 18-point lead into the fourth quarter.
"We've been practicing since April for this night, and we weren't going to let it slip away," Lowellville senior Danielle Hvisdak said. "We knew in our hearts that we weren't going to let this team beat us."
Hvisdak scored 15 points in the fourth quarter as Lowellville made a comeback to remember in defeating Western Reserve 63-53.
By outscoring the Blue Devils (14-4, 9-3) in the fourth, 35-7, Lowellville (16-2, 10-2) took over first place in the ICL by a half-game with two remaining. Springfield is 9-2 with three to play.
"Oh my God," said Matisi, repeating the phrase three times.
"I don't think I've ever seen more heart and more guts," he said. "Unbelievable."
Scoring in bunches
A 5-foot-7 guard, Hvisdak had struggled to five points and four fouls through three quarters.
But, with her team trailing 46-28, she was fouled on a 3-point attempt to begin the fourth and made three free throws. Senior Tami Nero and Hvisdak then hit back-to-back 3-pointers as the Rockets cut the deficit to 46-37.
"Everything was going well in the first three quarters; we have the momentum," Western Reserve coach Eric Kalina said. "Then in the fourth, we relaxed a little bit. We lost our intensity on defense."
With Nero and sophomore sister Amanda breaking out of their slumps, Lowellville whittled its deficit even further, taking its first lead, 48-47, on another Hvisdak 3-pointer with just over four minutes remaining.
"They told me to keep shooting because we were down by so many," said Hvisdak, who made three 3-pointers in the fourth and finished with 20 points.
Western Reserve took one more lead (50-48) and forced ties at 50 and 52 before Lowellville took the lead for good on Hvisdak's fourth 3-pointer of the game with 1:50 to play.
"We couldn't stop that momentum they gained. We tried to call timeout and slow things up," Kalina said.
"But when it goes bad, it goes bad," he said. "Tonight, I wish it was a three-quarter game."
Tami Nero finished with 16 points and Amanda Nero scored 14. Through three quarters, the duo had combined for 14 points.
"I was rushing my shot too much and they were flustering me," Tami Nero said of Western Reserve's match-up zone.
"We were too overconfident," she added. "We needed to get slapped in the face."
Senior Anna Marie Ricciardi led Western Reserve with 17 points, six rebounds and five steals, while senior Jen White added 11 points.
"More than anything, we're like sisters," said Lowellville senior Lauren Susany, putting the comeback in perspective. "Being like a family makes such a difference."