Next: JFK vs. Lowellville, Saturday, 2 p.m., at Hubbard High School.
By Doug Chapin
Lowellville High and Warren JFK have faced each other each in the past two seasons in the Division IV girls basketball district tournament at Hubbard.
In 2009, the Rockets beat the Eagles 61-49 in a sectional final. A year ago, Lowellville was a 66-50 winner in a district semifinal. This season, the match-up will take place in the district championship game, Saturday at 2 p.m.
That district final was set up Thursday night when JFK (18-4) defeated Crestview, 52-42, and Lowellville (23-0) topped Leetonia, 59-42.
“Kennedy is playing very positive right now,“ Lowellville coach Tony Matisi said about the upcoming match-up. “Everything goes through [Paige] Klaric, we’ve got to figure out a way to keep her out, stop the penetration. She loves to put the ball on the floor and go to the bucket. Heck, we’ve seen her shoot 20 free throws in a game. She loves to draw contact.”
Klaric, a senior guard, fired in 25 points for the Eagles on Thursday and grabbed seven rebounds. The Eagles got nine points from Raesha Gaston and Kelsie Massacci dished out five assists.
“She has the complete game,” JFK coach John Baytos said about Klaric. “She can hit the jumper off the dribble, she attacks the basket, she makes her free throws. She was able to do that for us again tonight and it’s fun to watch.”
Kennedy could not shake Crestview (15-8) in the second half, but the Rebels never got closer than six points, the last time at 35-29 with two minutes left in the third quarter. The Eagles held a 41-31 lead after three and led 48-34 midway through the final period.
Ashley Harrison scored 12 points for Crestview and Marissa Leon and Geri Sickle tallied 11 each. Sickle also had nine rebounds.
Lowellville played its first full game without three-year starter and leading scorer Taylor Hvisdak who injured her knee in the sectional final win over Columbiana. She joined another injured starter on the bench, Kaye Solak, who was hurt earlier in the season.
“It’s weird, we’re 23-0, but now it seems it’s us against the world,” Matisi said. “Even people close to us are saying, ‘Oh, you can’t do anything now,’ and the girls are taking it a little personal. It’s great, I’m happy to see it … no, I’m not. I’d be much happier having Taylor and Kaye on the floor.
“But a couple kids really stepped up. Emmy [Carlson] and Ash[ley Moore], they’ve been doing it since they were freshmen, and they were the two who took it most to heart. They were the most upset about people questioning them. In that regard, it’s been good.”
Moore scored 22 points, Carlson added 16 points, four assists and four steals, and Rachel Durbin scored 13 points for Lowellville.
“The two games against Leetonia during the season were the best anybody’s played us,” Matisi said. “Kelly [Paxson] is a fantastic coach. She gets everything out of those kids. Playing a team three times is difficult. They know everything we do and they take away some stuff. They scared the heck out of me.”
The Bears were paced by Clarissa Perkins with 16 points, eight rebounds and four steals. Lauren Ketterman added 12 points and Nicole Mann scored nine.