The Eagles held the Rockets' offense in check, 38-23.
LOWELLVILLE -- John F. Kennedy High came to Lowellville Tuesday night with a game plan of setting the tempo, playing good defense and rebounding.
Those elements provided the backdrop for the Eagles 38-23 victory over the Rockets in a girls non-league basketball game. The contest was rescheduled from its original date of Dec. 20 because of poor weather.
The Rockets, who have lost two straight games after a 14-0 start, led 5-1 in the early going thanks to Amanda Nero's short jump shot, her only field goal of the first half. JFK's first field goal didn't happen until the game was nearly three minutes old, when 5-foot-8 senior Aarika Knepp scored on a putback.
Lowellville maintained its lead throughout the first quarter and was on top 11-8 when it ended.
Back to back putbacks by Knepp gave JFK its first lead, 12-11, with 5:20 remaining in the first half. Juli Peterson made her only basket of the night to put Lowellville back on top, 13-12, but at the 3:36 mark Michelle Chaves, off the JFK bench, drilled a 3-pointer, to make it 15-13. Another putback by Knepp, followed by a free throw, made the score 18-13 and when the period was over JFK had outscored Lowellville 12-2 for 20-13 lead at the intermission.
The Eagles held their lead in the third quarter, and another offensive rebound and score by Knepp gave JFK (10-8) a 30-19 lead with 5:23 remaining in the game.
A field goal by Katie Piaciquadio inside the last two minutes of the game made the score 38-21 for JFK's biggest lead of the contest. Knepp, who averages 13 points and 11 rebounds per game, her work on the boards was huge as she grabbed 20 of her team's 38 rebounds to go along with her game-high 14 points.
"Boxing out and positioning in the lanes was huge for us tonight and we knew we had to follow missed shots," said Knepp. "We came out at the beginning knowing we had to play hard the entire game."
Also a factor was the defense of 5-7 senior Lauren Broadbent on Nero, who was averaging 25 points a game. Nero was held to just four field goals and eight points.
"I knew she was tough to handle, but I stayed with her," said Broadbent.
Coach Denise Smith of JFK added, "We decided to put Lauren on Nero because she knew what her tendencies were and she did an excellent job of being everywhere Amanda was."
Smith talked about the victory being a total team effort.
"We always want to dictate the tempo, which we did well early tonight, but I was happiest about the way we held our composure late when Lowellville was coming at us," he said.
Samantha Brys, a 5-8 sophomore, had nine points and 11 rebounds for JFK.
"Their defense took us right out of our game," said Lowellville coach Tony Matisi. "We knew about their tempo being offensively conservative and we needed to take a lead to force their hand and it just didn't happen.
"You can't get beat on the boards and allow second effort shots like we did tonight and expect to win."
Lowellville had 28 rebounds with Sara Porter and Kristen Pallozzi grabbing eight apiece.
Nero is 11 points away from the school record of 1,717, held by Lisa Rotunno from 1991-95. Rotunno was in attendance at Tuesday's game with her family.