By Steve Wilaj
The regular season is one thing, but Lowellville girls coach Tony Matisi knows the nature of tournament basketball.
“It’s totally all defense,” Matisi said after a 47-35 victory over Western Reserve at South Range High.
During Thursday’s Division IV doubleheader, Lowellville and Crestview played to playoff etiquette. Both teams extended their season a behind solid defensive efforts.
The opening matchup between Lowellville and Western Reserve was especially defensive-minded. In a game that saw blood shed, elbows being thrown and technical fouls, the Rockets defeated the Blue Devils for the third time this season.
“We were definitely expecting it to be physical,” said Lowellville guard Kaye Solak, who drew her first bloody nose during the contest. “They’re a very strong team, so we weren’t expecting to just come out there and for them to stand back and let us do whatever we want.”
However, in the beginning, that is what happened. The Rockets (21-3) jumped out to an 11-2 first-quarter lead.
But Western Reserve (9-14) battled back, cutting the margin to six points at halftime.
Lowellville was able to boost the lead back to 11 points at the end of three quarters, cruising the rest of the way to victory.
Solak led the Rockets with 15 points and eight rebounds, while Rachel Durbin added 13 points and Maddie Oprtiza chipped in 12.
Matisi said the Rockets’ offensive execution is a concern moving forward.
“I liked half of [the game],” Matisi said. “I liked our defensive effort . . . a little disappointed in the offense. I thought we fought ourselves more than their defense — forcing passes and not being patient.”
Western Reserve was led by Linley Mamonis with 13 points and eight rebounds. Despite the loss, Blue Devils coach Josh Scott was pleased with his girls’ performances.
“We had a really good game plan but just kind of had a few miscues that let it get away,” Scott said. “Other than that, everything went really well. We just didn’t execute down the stretch.”
In the nightcap, Crestview was the team that executed its game plan to perfection. With the zone-press in full-effect, the Rebels forced 23 Southern Local turnovers leading to a 64-30 victory.
“The intensity and heart that they showed, and just playing hard — that’s what we came here to do,” Crestview coach Rick Gates said.
Crestview (18-6) built a 25-10 lead at halftime and the Indians were unable to catch up. With defense being the night’s theme, the Rebels held Southern Local (11-11) to less than 10 points in three of the four quarters.
“Our decision-making in the first half kind of set the tone for the way things were gonna go,” Indians coach Cory Leek said. “They did a really good job with their press and we just had too many turnovers.”
Crestview received 13 points from Ashley Harrison and 11 points from Alexis Marnejon. But its biggest contribution came from Morgan Newbauer, who finished with 19 points and 14 rebounds.
“I think I did very well for not being a post player, but having to post up,” Newbauer said. “I only had a few outside shots but most of my points were underneath.
“And I usually don’t do that most of the games, so I did pretty well taking that role.”
Next Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Crestview will meet Lowellville at South Range in the district semifinals.