Spartans overcome early, deficit to win 49-35, to capture the Federal League Championship.
CANTON -- You almost could describe Boardman High School girls basketball coach Ron Moschella as quiet Tuesday night.
He stood outside the locker room after the game, his voice hoarse from four quarters of yelling and a series of postgame chants with his players. He spoke in a soft rasp about how the Spartans, two-year members of the Federal League, defended their conference title.
Perhaps he was savoring a dominating 49-35 victory over North Canton Hoover, which entered the week ranked seventh in the state Division I poll.
"I'm really happy for this basketball team," Moschella said.
He had reason to be pleased. Boardman ended Hoover's 13-game winning streak with a stifling defense that limited the Vikings to 12 second-half points. After the first quarter, Boardman outscored Hoover 42-17 on its way to its seventh consecutive victory.
Moschella was most pleased with how the Spartans, 16-2 overall, responded after falling behind by nine points in the first quarter.
Boardman went more than 5 minutes without a field goal and had trouble setting up its offense or taking a shot against Hoover (16-4). Moschella was in full voice, barking at officials and loudly scolding his players for not boxing out or missing assignments.
"Hoover is an excellent basketball team," Moschella said. "They came out like a Hoover team, and we didn't come out like a Boardman team."
By the end of the first quarter, the orange-clad Hoover fans were cheering, and Moschella, his voice loud enough to be heard throughout the Memorial Civic Center, had one message for the Spartans.
"You'd better play your butts off if you want to get back in this game," Moschella said.
Message delivered and received.
'Bringing it to them'
Colleen Mallis, a 5-foot-5-inch junior guard, opened the second quarter with a long, high-arching 3-point basket, and it was a different game for the rest of the evening. By the time Hoover's Brittany Orban scored with 2:53 remaining before halftime, Hoover's lead was 20-19.
Boardman held Hoover to two baskets and five second-quarter points.
"We starting bringing it to them," said April Melquist, who led Boardman with 17 points. "We had nothing to lose -- nobody thought we were going to win this game."
It was Melquist who ended Boardman's long scoring drought in the first quarter, and she scored steadily on a mix of fast breaks and short jumpers.
"With our offense, I can score 20 or it can be zero," said Melquist, a junior. "We all play for each other."
Senior Jessica Moore, held to three points in the first half, finished with 11 points. Mallis finished with seven points.
The Spartans played strong defense throughout the game. Hoover was limited to four second-half baskets. The only players to score for the Vikings in the second half were Orban, who finished the game with 11 points, and Stephanie Gibson, who scored nine.
Brittany Smith even took a charge with 42 seconds remaining in the game and Boardman owning a 12-point lead. When she pulled herself up, she was smiling. Just a few minutes later, the Spartans were on the floor, hoisting the league trophy.
"You've got to have all five players on the floor working hard to play that kind of defense," Moschella said.
If recent history is any indication, Boardman will face Hoover again soon. The two teams have met in district action the last six consecutive years, usually in the district final. District action begins Saturday, and if Hoover and Boardman meet, it will be in the final.
"Sure, this prepares us a lot [for the postseason]," Moschella said. "But you still have got to beat other teams. We've lost to other teams this season that weren't as good as Hoover. You've got to be ready to play every day."