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Next: Lowellville at Leetonia, Friday, 7:30 p.m.
By Doug Chapin
A perfect regular season in high school basketball is a rare feat, one that usually results in plenty of fanfare and congratulations all around. Such is not the case with the Lowellville High girls basketball team, the two-time defending Division IV District champion Rockets who completed a 20-0 regular season last week.
“We won our 20th game and it wasn’t anything special because that wasn’t one of their goals,” Lowellville coach Tony Matisi said about his team. “It was just get on the bus and go home. It amazed me, but it wasn’t one of their goals.”
The season wasn’t just any 20-0 season either. The Rockets’ average margin of victory was 36 points and only three games were decided by fewer than 20 points.
Lowellville took its first step toward a third straight District title with a 74-34 rout of Heartland Christian School. The top-seeded Rockets scored 31 points in the first quarter and held Heartland (7-12) to two points in the second quarter on the way to a 51-14 halftime lead.
Taylor Hvisdak led the Lowellville offense with 21 points, Rachel Durbin scored 15 and Emily Carlson had 12. Taylor Hause scored 12 and Erin Letarte 10 for Heartland.
“It has been super watching them grow up in front of your eyes. Every year we add more stuff,” Matisi said. “What we did last summer was we wanted to pick up our defense. That’s where we thought we could get better the quickest so we worked on defense all summer. That is one of our mainstays, our defense, along with our transition.
“If you notice when we pull that full-court pressure off, our half-court offense is nothing special. We know that and for us to get moving it has to be transition, it has to be full-court. When we have to pull it out and run a half-court offense we’re an average team.”
Lowellville will play Columbiana at 2:30 p.m. Saturday in a Sectional final. The Rockets defeated the Clippers 66-35 last week to finish the season.
Columbiana (8-13) advanced Wednesday night with a 53-46 victory over Jackson-Milton (0-21). The Clippers were led by Hayley Goist with 20 points and Khylea Fullum with 17. Katherine Santor scored 18 and Maddie Griffiths 10 for the BlueJays.
Lowellville does not look like a 20-0 basketball team until one sees them in game action. The Rockets have no tall players, they shoot OK, and they are above average in quickness and athleticism. What really stand out about this team is its high basketball IQ. All of the Rockets look like they know what they are doing on the basketball court.
“Believe me, it just means less time you’ve got to spend on little stuff. You can get right to things in practice,” Matisi said. “The thing about them is our practices are unbelievable. They just come in and work so hard.
“They know where the open man is going to be, they know when to make the pass, fill the lane, stuff like that.”
The Rockets run a fundamentally-sound, move-your-feet, man-to-man defense. But the girls off the ball are always ready to jump into a double team or jump into a passing lane. And they seen to know instinctively when to do so.
“Whatever we do scouting-wise, we usually put our best kid on their best scorer and try to deny as much as we can,” Matisi said about the Rockets’ defense. “But we’re going to run and jump also on their other guards who handle the ball, because we’re taking the main girl away. All that is is a straight man with jumping the ball. We don’t want them to run away from a jump is what we teach them.”