The Rockets routed Sebring after learning of the death of a classmate.
LIBERTY - Just hours before taking the floor against Sebring in a Division IV sectional tournament game at Liberty High on Wednesday, the Lowellville High girls basketball team learned about the death of a fellow Lowellville student that occurred earlier in the day.
Junior Zachary Bestic, who was struck and killed by a train, was a brother of Rockets freshman Jessica Bestic and a friend of many on the team.
Rockets coach Tony Matisi was not sure how his team would handle the tragedy when it took the court, but soon after the opening tip it was evident that the team was looking to use the game as an opportunity to start the healing process.
"The kids called and said, "Coach, what are we going to do?" said Matisi.
"They didn't even know until dismissal time. It just happened so quickly and we knew we could either roll over or we could try to pick up the school and the community in this horrible time. To overcome that, I mean there were a couple of our girls that were very close to him. They grew up a lot tonight."
Lowellville (19-3) sprinted out to a 20-0 first quarter lead on 8-of-12 field-goal shooting and defensively forced Sebring to miss all nine of its shots and turn the ball over four times in the span. The second quarter was just as productive on both ends for the Rockets as they ran their lead to 36-4 at the half and then cruised to a 58-27 victory.
Senior Amanda Nero led the Rockets' attack with 18 points, hitting six of eight field goal attempts, including three 3-pointers, in just 20 minutes of playing time. In spite of the emotional upheaval of the team, Nero said they came together and did what they had to do.
"On the way up here, the whole bus was crying. But for some reason as soon as we walked into the gym we knew that we wanted to do this for our friend," said Nero. "Sara [Porter] stood up in the locker room and said, 'Let's do this for Zach.' We knew what we had to do and it just all came together."
Played complete game
The Rockets played a complete game, shooting 53 percent from the field, forcing 17 turnovers, winning the rebounding battle 39-24 and holding the Trojans to just 11-of-51 from the field.
Matisi has been concerned about getting other people involved in the offense to take pressure off of Nero. He got his wish in the first half as six players cracked the scoring column. In addition to Nero's 13 first-half points, Porter netted six in the first quarter and senior Juli Peterson, who finished with 12, scored eight in the first half.
"We had a really good practice last night," said Matisi. "We did some new stuff and they showed a lot of patience running it and it really worked. It depended on other people making shots and that's what happened early. I was happiest with our defense. We're going defensively. It just sets the tone for our offense."
Junior Ashley Amabeli led Sebring (6-15) with nine points and nine boards.
Southington 50, Jackson-Milton 49, OT
Jackson-Milton (8-14) overcame a nine-point deficit with just over three minutes to play in the game to force overtime against Southington (11-10). Bluejays junior Megan Whitmer scored on a rebound and putback at the buzzer that knotted the score at 43.
In overtime, Jackson-Milton possessed a 49-47 lead when Southington's Nicole Ullinskey hit a 3-pointer with 30 seconds left that put the Wildcats up 50-49. Bluejays sophomore Elizabeth Hughes missed a 3-pointer with six seconds left, allowing Southington to hold on to the victory.
Ullinskey paced the 'Cats with 17 points and Dottie Plock added 12.
Sophomore Carrie Fiol led the Bluejays with 19 points.