Amanda Nero's late 3-pointer ensured the victory for the Rockets.
McDONALD -- Lowellville High senior Amanda Nero is known for her ability to score, not her rebounding. The 5-foot-8 guard managed only one rebound in the second half of the Rockets' matchup against McDonald on Thursday but it was crucial.
Trailing 41-40 with 20 seconds remaining in the game, Nero attempted a 15-footer from the left side of the key that caromed off the rim. Nero chased the ball down in the corner, dribbled to the top of the key and nailed a 3-pointer with 11 seconds on the clock that put the Rockets ahead 43-41. With 4 seconds remaining, McDonald junior Ashleigh Tondo drove the lane but missed the potential layup, and the Rockets walked away with the Inter-County League victory.
Lowellville finished the regular season with a 17-3 record and captured the ICL crown with a 12-0 mark. McDonald is 11-8, 7-5.
A bit of a struggle
Despite the big play, it was not one of the best shooting performances of Nero's career. Before hitting the game-winning 3-pointer, the leading scorer in Lowellville history had connected on just six of 20 field goal attempts -- but five of those six had been from behind the arc.
& quot;When I missed that first shot, I knew I just had to get the rebound," said Nero. "Then when I made the 3, it was like, whew. Thank God."
Nero led all scorers with 22 points, 11 in the pivotal fourth quarter. She was 0-for-6 from the floor in the third and the Blue Devils were able to turn a 23-22 halftime deficit into a 33-26 lead at the end of the quarter. Nero and junior teammate Sara Porter then combined for 10 points within a three-minute span of the fourth to turn a 37-30 deficit into a 40-39 lead with 2:09 to play. Porter finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
"We wanted the ball in Amanda's hands," said Lowellville coach Tony Matisi, of the final play. "We thought they were going to come out and play us man-to-man, but then they came out in that 1-2-2 zone, and we had to adjust. That 3-pointer wasn't our first option, but it worked."
That one rebound
McDonald coach Rob Hilbun said that the 1-2-2-zone defense was something he had just put in this week in preparation for the Rockets.
"We wanted to stop their 3-point shooting because they have great outside shooters," said the fourth-year coach. "And we knew that we needed to rebound, not let them have any second-chance opportunities. For the most part, we did a pretty good job of that. But the one rebound we really needed to get we didn't."
Freshman Emily Dolsak led the Blue Devils with a career-high 20 points and 10 rebounds. Tondo, who eclipsed the 1,000-point mark last week against Springfield, chipped in 11 points and six boards.