GIRLS BASKETBALL Boardman in control of Federal
The Spartans dominated Massillon Jackson to earn sole possession of first place.
By BRIAN RICHESSON
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
BOARDMAN -- Critics of the Boardman High girls basketball team believe the Spartans are one-dimensional.
At least for one day, they might want to reconsider.
Even with senior standout Amber Bland starting slow Saturday against Massillon Jackson (9-5, 6-1), there was no need to worry -- not with junior Jessica Moore and sophomore April Melquist in the lineup.
"Everybody says we're one-dimensional," Boardman (14-0, 7-0) coach Ron Moschella said, "but you can say whatever you want."
Moore and Melquist certainly had their say. They combined for 21 first-half points to jump-start the Spartans en route to a 75-44 victory that put them alone atop the Federal League.
"This was like the [Steel Valley Conference] championship for us," Moore said.
Ursuline, Boardman's former SVC rival, beat Jackson earlier this season. That game served as some of the Spartans' motivation Saturday, especially since Boardman and Ursuline don't play each other.
"If we didn't beat them," Moore said of Jackson, "people would say we can't beat Ursuline."
The Spartans also have been motivated by two teammates absent from the lineup because of injury -- senior Brittany Durkin and junior Liz Yazbek.
"Durkin means everything to us," Melquist said. "She was a starter for four years, so we play every game for her."
Before the game against Jackson, they gathered in the locker room and gained inspiration from Durkin, who is working her way back from a knee injury.
"Since Durkin got injured, we've dedicated the season to her," Moore said. "In the locker room, we had a big pep talk about that."
Then they went out and took care of business.
Bland, a Penn State recruit, scored 30 points -- all but six in the second half -- as the state-ranked Spartans remained unbeaten. But it was the play of the 6-foot Moore and 5-10 Melquist that set the tone early.
"We just know we have to go in there and work our butts off," Melquist said. "When [Bland] is being double-teamed, we know we have to step it up to the next level."
Melquist made three 3-pointers and scored all of her 14 points in the first half, while Moore scored seven of her 12 points in the first half and grabbed nine total rebounds.
"April Melquist really kept us in the game by hitting all of those 3-pointers," Moschella said. "These kids have learned to come on and play hard."
Boardman led 31-22 at halftime but used a 26-point third quarter to take command against the Polar Bears, who hurt themselves with numerous turnovers.
"If you don't take care of the basketball and you don't rebound, you're not going to win many games," Jackson coach Dennis Schrock said. "Boardman took advantage of that and put it to us."
Senior Maria Telloni led Jackson with 16 points, while junior Lolly Hmiel, who is being recruited by Youngstown State, added nine.
In addition to her 30 points, Bland had seven rebounds, six steals and two blocks for Boardman, which now can enjoy its solo first-place standing.
"Oh, it's nice. I'm sure Jackson would have said the same thing," Moschella said. "But you know, for our first year in [the Federal League] and to be at the top, I'll take that."