Boardman clamps down, wins battle of unbeatens
By JOE SCALZO
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
YOUNGSTOWN -- Ron Moschella stomped, sweated, frowned, smiled, hugged, swore and did what he always seems to do against Ursuline.
But boy, was it interesting.
In front of a standing-room-only crowd of 1,800 -- the largest crowd to ever see an Ursuline High girls basketball game -- the visiting Spartans built a 42-25 lead, then held off a late Irish rally to win 49-37 in a Steel Valley Conference battle of unbeatens Thursday night.
"Two players had the flu, the coach had the flu, another had a sprained ankle, but we played through it," Moschella, the Spartans' coach, said. "A lot of people came to see a good basketball game tonight and they got one."
Spartan junior Amber Bland, last year's Division I player of the year in Ohio, scored a game-high 23 points, grabbed 13 rebounds, had three steals and blocked two shots.
Boardman (10-0, 4-0) has beaten Ursuline eight straight times.
"We were bragging, they were bragging, and it just felt so good to win," Bland said. "They really helped us out. They may not know it, but they helped us. It was a really big test."
The Spartans, who last lost a conference game during the 2000-01 season to Warren Harding, held Ursuline (10-1, 2-1) to 30 percent shooting (17 of 57) from the floor.
They also shut down last year's Division III district player of the year -- holding Irish junior Courtney Davidson to a career-low two points. Davidson scored a career-high 40 points in her last game -- a win over Granville on Sunday.
"It was no secret what they were going to do," Ursuline coach Sean Durkin, who is 1-8 against Boardman, said. "And what we prepared to do went by the wayside."
Boardman led for most of the game, taking a 16-9 lead after the first quarter and a 25-17 halftime lead. The Spartans seemed to be in control with a 42-25 lead with 4:52 left in the fourth quarter.
Then Ursuline upped the pressure, forcing four turnovers in two minutes and eventually cutting the lead to six, 43-37, with 1:36 left.
The Irish did not score again.
"We think we can do that pretty well with anybody," Durkin said of the press. "Maybe we should have done more of that."
The intense atmosphere may have hindered the young Irish, Durkin said, but he hopes Ursuline can learn from the loss.
"We can dwell on this or we can learn from this," he said. "It would have been very easy to quit out there. Now we have the opportunity to build a little bit of character over the next few weeks."
Spartan junior Renee Farina added nine points, including two clutch 3-pointers in the first half, and senior Jen Hlebovy had eight points and eight rebounds. Senior Lauren Craig also had eight rebounds.
"Amber Bland is the best player in the state and she carries this team," Moschella said. "But we have some role players who can really play."
Added Bland, "They were double-teaming me and triple-teaming me and that's fine. I'll just pass the ball."
Ursuline senior Amber Miller led the Irish with 11 points and four steals. Freshman Tyra Grant added nine points and 10 rebounds and senior Christina Cook had seven points, five rebounds and four steals.
But the Irish offense flows through Davidson, and, consequently, it had no flow on Thursday.
"To hold a player like that to two points is a credit to Allison Davis [who had a sprained ankle], Brittany Durkin [who had the flu] and Bridget Beachy," Moschella, who was fighting the flu, said. "Our game plan was to shut her down."
Davidson's only basket came with just 4:40 left in the game, but it gave her 1,233 career points -- passing Cathy Hanek to become Ursuline's all-time leading scorer.
When she did it, play stopped and the crowd -- on both sides -- gave her a standing ovation.