Bluejays pull away from Lordstown
By Greg Gulas
After exorcising one set of Devils on Wednesday night, another awaits Jackson-Milton girls basketball team.
With a 51-38 victory over Lordstown’s Red Devils in a Division IV district semifinals safely tucked away, top-seeded Jackson-Milton advanced to a district final against Inter-Tri County League rival McDonald.
The Bluejays beat the Blue Devils twice in the regular season. They’ll meet again at 4 p.m. Saturday.
If they expect to defend their crown and win for a third time against McDonald, then they’ll need to avoid the type of sluggish start hey had against Lordstown.
Ashley Totani scored a game-high 21 points and Michaelina Terranova and Emily Williams each added 12 as the Bluejays’ winning streak reached 11 games.
“We take it one possession and one quarter at a time, but started slow tonight,” Totani said. “Coach [Pat] Keney talked to us at halftime, told us to settle down and said we’d be all right. We played more relaxed in the second half.”
As relaxed as they were after intermission, that’s perhaps as tight as both teams were in the initial period as the Red Devils (16-9) held a 6-4 lead at the 3:12 mark of the period.
A triple by Kaylynn Higinbotham (team-high 11 points), gave Lordstown a 9-6 advantage, but buckets by Totani and Williams to end the quarter gave Jackson-Milton a 10-6 advantage.
“Every day in practice we go hard and go over situations that prepare us for games like this,” Williams said.
“We’ll need to be confident, but cannot overlook McDonald because it’s always a tough game when we get together.”
A bucket by Kellee Applegate gave Lordstown an 11-10 lead a little over a minute into the frame, but a three-point play by Totani and bucket by Terranova increased the Bluejays’ lead to 15-11.
Jackson-Milton never trailed again.
A three-point play by Applegate and hoop from Elena Columbo cut the deficit to 19-18, but buckets from both Terranova and Totani gave Jackson-Milton a 23-18 halftime lead.
“It’s very special to be playing in our third consecutive district title game. They call us a small school, but we have some very big things going on right now,” Terranova said.
“In the first quarter, Lordstown played really, really well and we just got caught up in the moment. Hats off to them because they did a really nice job,” Keney said. “Dave Smith has done an excellent job as head coach at Lordstown. “We’re happy to be back in the district final, but realize that it will be a battle with McDonald because they play you every possession.”
Totani’s seven points in the final period rounded out the scoring for Jackson-Milton as the Bluejays defense held the Red Devils to two buckets and two charity tosses over the final eight minutes of action.
“We wanted to slow down the game and keep the pace slower than normal,” Smith said. “They have great athletes and just wore us down in the end. I’m proud of our season because this group of girls played their hearts out each and every game.”