By Ryan Jones
BERLIN CENTER — Western Reserve coach Josh Scott emphasized to his squad that Monday’s contest against Lowellville was the most important game of the season.
Even though the Blue Devils fell behind 21-9 midway through the second quarter — with the Rockets poised to put the game out of reach — Scott said his team still believed.
“We were in a bad spot, but I felt, and I think the girls felt, like we still had a chance to get back in it,” he said. “Even when we went down by double digits our girls never lost the desire to win.”
Western Reserve (8-2, 4-0) and its uncompromising defense held Lowellville to 12 second-half points in a 43-39 victory in Inter Tri-County League Tier Two game.
The Blue Devils limited Lowellville to 3-of-18 (17 percent) shooting and forced 13 turnovers in the second half.
“Wow, did we respond,” Scott said about his team’s second-half effort. “We applied more pressure on defense and we tried to deny Taylor Hvisdak the ball to not let her shoot it. We wanted to make some other girls step up because [Hvisdak] was having a great game shooting the ball.”
Hvisdak scored 21 points, had nine rebounds and sunk five 3-pointers — including three in the first half that spurred Lowellville’s 9-0 second quarter run.
Lowellville (7-3, 3-1) coach Tony Matisi said Western Reserve played great defense in the second half.
“What shocked me the most was that they rattled us with their pressure down the stretch,” he said. “For the games we’ve been through this season I was surprised how we handled the final moments tonight. They took us out of a lot of the things we wanted to do on offense.”
The Blue Devils closed the second quarter on a 10-6 run to close to within 27-19 at intermission.
Matisi said he felt his team had the chance pull away in the second quarter.
“In the back of my mind I knew they [Western Reserve] had played a bad first half and we were only up eight points,” he said. “I was a little leery of what was going to happen.”
Colleen Kennehan scored nine of the Blue Devils’ 14 points in the third quarter. The 5-foot-5 sophomore, who led Western Reserve with 13 points and five steals, sunk all four of her shots during the period, and her 3-pointer as time expired cut Lowellville’s lead to 34-33.
“Colleen is tenacious,” Scott said. “She has more fire and will to win than most high school players have and it’s contagious. She just flat out gets after it and tonight everyone else followed her lead. Sammi Burton had some nice baskets inside, Victoria Brown played great defense and Hannah Mowery hit some big shots.”
Western Reserve held the lead at 35-34 with 6:30 left in the fourth quarter after a bucket by Burton.
Lowellville regained and held the lead until Tori Korda’s rebound put back at the 1:30 mark gave the Blue Devils a 41-39 advantage.
The Rockets had a turnover and blocked shot on their next two possessions, and Western Reserve got the ball with 9.8 seconds remaining. Kennehan beat the Rockets’ full court pressure deep and was fouled while shooting. She made the two free throws with about five seconds left.
Mowery scored 10 points, Jessie Keeler grabbed eight rebounds, Matti Shahaden had four assists and Brown had five blocked shots for Western Reserve.