By greg Gulas
Howland High girls basketball coach John Diehl knew that his Tigers needed to get off to a fast start against league rival Poland.
What he didn’t expect was Gabby Cvengros to do it all by herself.
Cvengros scored the game’s first 12 points and Howland built a 14-0 lead at the outset, never looking back as the Tigers defeated the Bulldogs, 57-44 in All-American Conference American Division action Thursday at Poland.
The win gave the Tigers the season sweep of the Bulldogs. The Tigers defeated the Bulldogs on Dec. 17, 46-36 behind Cvengros’ 24 points and 13 rebounds.
“We realized that we had to step it up the last couple of games and tonight our shots just kept falling,” Cvengros said. “Our defense held their offense in check and everyone contributed, which was big.”
The Bulldogs (11-6, 3-5) finally got on the board when Rachael Robertson canned two free throws at the 3:15 mark, but Howland (9-7, 4-4) finished the session on a 7-0 run to take a 21-3 lead to the second period.
It took Poland nearly 10 minutes to hit their first field goal. That came on a bucket by Kasie Serich at 6:29 of the second quarter as the Bulldogs played the Tigers even in the period, but found themselves on the short end of a 33-15 score.
“Our game plan was to come out strong and play hard, keeping pressure on them right from the start,” Howland’s Taylor Ginnis said. “We wanted to be ahead after the first quarter and with Gabby [Cvengros] on fire right from the outset, it became a little easier for us at both ends of the court.”
Ginnis had a game-high 10 rebounds for the Tigers.
Two triples by Trisha Ginnis and six more points by Cvengros after intermission then helped the Tigers open up a 47-26 advantage.
“When your leading scorer is ‘6-for-6’ right from the start, you can’t beat that,” Diehl said. “To hold them without a field goal for well over nine minutes at the start was a credit to our defense.
The Tigers held a 32-24 rebound advantage with Suess and Marissa Trevis hauling in four caroms each for the Bulldogs.
“The season is so long and there are peaks and valleys that you go through. Right now, we’re in a downward spiral and just not jelling for four quarters,” Poland coach Nick Blanch said.
“The important thing is that they’re still trying and the effort is there. We’re just not playing as a unit,” Blanch said. “On a bright note, those that came off the bench for us tonight showed some fire and that’s important. We remain positive; it’s just a tough learning experience and one that we’ll work through.”