By Doug Chapin
The Newton Falls High girls basketball team got off to a fast start Thursday and never trailed on the way to a 53-48 victory over Girard.
It was the first National Division contest of the season for the two All-American Conference schools.
The Tigers (4-2 overall) scored the first six points of the game and used an 8-2 run at the end of the first quarter for a 21-11 lead at the break. Girard (2-4) responded with an 8-0 run to start the second quarter. The Indians tied the game at 28-28 then trailed 30-28 at halftime.
“We talked at halftime that on the defensive end of the floor we weren’t closing the seams, we were letting them get to the basket,” Newton Falls coach Mark Baker said. “In the second quarter, they scored a lot of points in the paint.
“They got some offensive rebounds and some dribble penetration and we just weren’t rotating very well,” Baker said.
“In our defense, there is constant rotation going on and we just weren’t making that recovery move,” Baker said. “We talked about that at halftime and in the second half we moved our feet better and played better defensively.”
The third quarter was an offensive disaster for the visitors as they scored just two points on 1-for-11 shooting. The Tigers led 38-30 heading into the final quarter and opened its largest lead, 45-32, with 5:27 remaining.
“The third quarter really killed us,” Girard coach Andy Saxon said. “They wanted to pressure us, up-tempo the game, I know that, but we were able to break the pressure for the most part.
“Once we did, though, we had what I call unforced errors, dribbling off the foot, throwing the ball to the wrong area, stuff like that,” Saxon said. “In the second quarter, we handled the pressure and didn’t turn the ball over.”
Girard did put together one final run and closed to 51-48 with 10 seconds on the clock before the Tigers’ Rachel Ellis sealed the win by converting both ends of a one-and-one at the nine-second mark.
Ellis is one of four seniors returning from a 19-3 season a year ago.
“We had a great season last year and that’s given us momentum into this year,” Ellis said. “We lost a lot of players but we knew we could replace them and we have high hopes for this season.”
Brooke Barreca had 14 points and seven rebounds for Newton Falls and Ellis added 12 points and four assists. Angela Giuliano had five assists and five steals and Alissa Abraham came off the bench to contribute 10 points.
Barreca, just a sophomore, shoulders the inside scoring and rebounding load for the Tigers.
“Brooke has the ability to get out and run with us as well. When the fast break and the full-court play breaks down, we are disciplined enough to look to her,” Baker said. For Girard, Bree Bishop, also a sophomore, had 17 points and 12 rebounds and Miranda Boyle added 13 points.
“We are doing a lot better,” Saxon said about Girard’s progress early in the season.