By Ryan Jones
COLUMBIANA— East Palestine senior Breanne Hull said coach Walt Herriot has tried everything to prepare his team for the 2009-2010 season.
“He’s gone as far as strapping a tennis racket to his hand to try and block our shots during practices,” she said.
So far, his unique coaching methods have paid off.
Hull’s game-high 20 points propelled the Bulldogs to a 48-40 triumph over Columbiana in an Inter-Tri County League Tier One contest.
East Palestine (2-1, 1-0) benefited from 36 Columbiana turnovers and a blazing start.
The Bulldogs opened up a 9-0 advantage in the first minute of the game as Hull canned her first three field goals of the game — all from long range.
“So far this year I’ve seemed to start games better,” Hull said. “If I’m on, I’m really on. If I’m off I try to make up for my shooting by playing great defense. This season we are having more fun. We haven’t been so serious and we seem to focus better when we are out there having fun.”
The Bulldogs rode Hull’s shooting to a 19-7 first quarter lead and held a 30-20 advantage at halftime.
Herriot said Hull set the tone with her shooting.
“We usually play better when she starts out hot,” he said. “For our program and where we are now any win is huge because there are a lot of tough teams in our league. We’ve been playing hard and having fun while doing it; so far it’s working out.”
The Clippers fought back in the third quarter with stingy defense that limited East Palestine to two points in the third quarter.
A layup by Katie Witmer with just under three minutes remaining in the third period brought the Clippers to within two points of the Bulldogs, 32-30, but Columbiana never seized the lead.
“We were sluggish coming out of the locker room and I couldn’t figure out why,” Herriot said. “Maybe we became a bit complacent, but give Columbiana credit they never backed down.”
Columbiana coach Jeff Hammond said his squad didn’t panic when it fell behind early.
“The girls knew they weren’t completely out of it,” he said. “We did some nice things defensively in the second half that kept us in it. We simplified things and went man-to-man against them. We challenged our girls and they responded.”
“With the score 32-30 we had the longest dry spell and we weren’t able to get over the hump. We made mistakes and threw a lot of bad passes, but I was proud of the way we battled and scraped our way back.”
A three pointer from Hull and a lay-up by Emily Casto gave the Bulldogs a 37-30 lead early in the fourth quarter.
Columbiana (2-2, 0-1) cut the lead to 43-40 on Hayley Goist’s three-point play with 1:04 left, but East Palestine connected on 5-of-9 free throws down the stretch to seal the win.
Hammond was hit with two technicals and ejected after Irene Coy fouled out with 44.7 seconds remaining.
Casto had 14 points and a game-high six assists for East Palestine.
Witmer had a double-double for Columbiana with 16 points and 11 rebounds. Irene Coy snatched a game-high 13 rebounds for the Clippers and Goist totaled six points, five rebounds and three assists.
The Clippers also struggled from the charity stripe — making only 9-of-23 attempts.