By Ryan Buck
For three quarters, the Howland girls basketball team couldn’t get out of its own way.
The Tigers committed 15 turnovers as they struggled for just 26 points against a stingy Cardinal Mooney defense.
The one thing they were able to rely on, however, was their own defensive effort to keep them in the game, highlighted by a stellar performance from an emerging force in the Howland paint.
When it mattered most, the Tigers stood tall on their home court as they held the Cardinals to four fourth-quarter points and made enough shots late to pull out a 37-32 victory last night.
Junior forward Gabby Cvengros’ four blocks and inside presence (14 points and 12 rebounds) made the difference in a game in which points did not come easy.
“We started out slow at first because, I don’t know, I guess we weren’t in the swing of things,” said Cvengros, one of five first-year starters in the Howland lineup.
Cvengros emphasized the non-conference game’s importance as Howland came in having lost three of four, including games against Canfield and Austintown Fitch.
“Towards the end, we came together because we knew we had to win because it was a big game for us and it really changed our season.”
Mooney led for much of the evening as sophomore forward Jaclyn Yankle worked inside-and-out on her way to a game-high 16 points.
With just under 7 minutes left in the fourth quarter, Yankle was called for a reach-in foul at the Mooney end of the floor, her fourth of the night.
“They’ve only got the two taller players so, especially when she fouled out, they relaxed a little bit on defense,” Howland coach John Diehl said.
Howland capitalized on Yankle’s absence and height advantage after she went to the bench with Mooney ahead 30-28.
On the ensuing inbounds play, Cvengros tied the game with a layup.
Yankle re-entered two minutes later, but the Tigers had the momentum.
Taylor Ginnis drove to her right past the Mooney defense and converted a layup for a 34-32 lead.
With 45 seconds to play, Mooney regained possession. But sophomore Trisha Ginnis, Taylor’s younger sister, stole a pass under the Howland basket.
Cvengros knocked down one of two free throws after being fouled to push the lead to 35-32.
Mooney had a chance to cut the deficit, earning a trip to the foul line with less than 10 seconds left, but Cvengros battled for the rebound as Jamie DiDomenico’s first attempt of a 1-and-1 rolled off the front of the rim.
“I just did whatever I could to try and help the team,” Cvengros said. “I got in there when I could and played defense.”
She calmly drilled two free throws for the final margin of victory.
Diehl was pleased that his young squad was able to pull out a win when outside shots weren’t falling.
“There are no starters from last year,” Diehl said. “They’re still young and they’re only in game 12 of their varsity careers. This is going to help them in the long run, knowing that they can play from behind and not play very well and still win a game.”