Pezzano leads late run by Blue Devils
By ERIC FORTUNE
South Range faced the unfortunate scenario of being without Maddie Durkin, who was shut down after not being able to get through the Raiders’ first tournament game following gallbladder surgery.
Still, it seemed like South Range might pull off the upset after coming back from as many as 14 down in the first half.
But then Lisbon’s Karlee Pezzano pulled off some late-game heroics and the Blue Devils escaped with a 65-63 victory in a Division III sectional final.
“We got that four-point lead, but then Pezzano [got us],” Raiders head coach Tony Matisi said. “We let her come down too easy, score, and get it to two.
“I thought we should have been more patient with a four-point lead playing defense, a little bit more solid. We let her slip through.”
Pezzano finished with a game-high 30 points, including 13 in a fourth quarter which featured six lead changes.
The Blue Devils’ victory sets up a district semifinal meeting with rival Columbiana on Wednesday at Struthers Fieldhouse. The Clippers beat the Blue Devils twice in two epic regular-season games.
South Range (12-12) led 63-59 lead with 52 seconds left after Marlaina Slabach made a pair of free throws.
The Raiders looked to have all the momentum after getting their first two-possession lead only to see a Pezzano steal change things.
“The turnover was big,” Matisi said. “They got to foul us. We hope to go to the line making a couple. We turn it over. We give them two shots to tie it.”
Said Pezzzano: “My legs were shaking. I was nervous, but I knew I had to step up for my team. I knew we could finish the game on top. We just had to stay calm.”
Lisbon coach Jamie Entrikin said the Blue Devils (19-5) had to get the ball into their best player’s hands.
“Karlee showed what kind of player she is,” Entrikin said. “We’re down two and the game is on the line, she’s going to get it one way or another.”
With three seconds left, the Raiders got one last chance to tie the game up but Slabach’s jumper didn’t fall.
Slabach, Bri Modic and Taylor Naples each scored 14 for South Range.
“I thought we executed it well,” Matisi said. “We got the shot we wanted. It was right there. The shot just didn’t fall.”
The Blue Devils seemed poised to run away with the game early after taking an 18-9 lead after one. They led by as many as 14 late in the second quarter.
Instead the Raiders finished out the quarter on a 9-0 run to make it 32-27. South Range had just six field goals at the half but was 12 of 16 at the foul line.
“We knew we had to throw in some kind of zone to protect the bucket, yet watch Pezzano,” Matisi said. “It took that quarter to work the kinks out. I thought from there we played rather well.”
South Range tied the game at 38 midway through the third quarter only to see Lisbon go up 48-41 heading into the final quarter.
“It was uneasy because of how we let them get back into the game,” Entrikin said. “They were driving and picking up fouls. That is how they were able to get back in the game. It gave them confidence. I knew the rest of the game was going to be a dog fight.”