Moschella takes a seat as his Clippers romp
By Dan Hiner
After more than a week of off-court distractions involving head coach Ron Moschella, there was little drama on the court. Saturday, the Columbiana girls basketball defeated Mineral Ridge 66-12 in their Division III sectional final.
The Clippers’ coach sat quietly in his chair for the majority of the game. When he did speak up, he was congratulating and supporting his players or calling plays.
Moschella carried a smile throughout the game — literally.
He had a smile attached to a stick in the pocket of his jacket during the game and a stack of them sitting behind the bench.
“A couple people were being wise guys, and they wanted me to smile and not yell,” Moschella said. “I’d like to change that, especially for my heart. I’m passionate, I want my girls to be passionate.”
The Columbiana coach is happy he gets to remain with the team after accusations of verbal abuse.
“I appreciate the Board of Education’s support, the superintendent’s support, the administration’s support,” Moschella said. “It takes one parent to ruin, possibly, a team. My players supported me, the parents of my players supported me so I’m OK with that. If there were three, or four or five players who left the program, I’d be gone.
“The team’s going to tournament play. They could have lost their focus, but they didn’t lose their focus. They’re about Columbiana basketball. I’m not saying it’s all about winning, I’ve been accused of that, but our country is based on winning, our country is competitive. It’s a free enterprise society and it’s about winning — not at all costs — but it’s about winning.”
The Rams were missing three starters due to suspension. Mineral Ridge head coach Matthew Cluse declined to give details on the suspensions, but said it played a part in their performance. Junior varsity players were called up to fill the spots of the missing starters.
“They were suspended for a couple days. It just so happened to be right now,” Cluse said. “It’s something that took place a while ago. It had nothing to do with this week. It’s just something that came about. They’ll learn and they’ll have to face up to the consequences of their actions.
“The sad part is these girls here also had to suffer the consequences of those actions, and that’s what probably makes me as mad as I am.”
Cluse doesn’t want the suspension to be an excuse for the loss. He said the team was prepared to play a good Columbiana team.
He said the players he had available played their best against a quality opponent and that’s all he could ask from his players.
Cluse wants his players to learn from Saturday’s game. He wants them to understand what it takes to play with a team like Columbiana, but also wants everyone on the team to learn that actions have consequences.
Saturday’s game was similar to the first meeting between the two teams. Columbiana beat Mineral Ridge 70-32 on Dec. 9, earning Moschella his 700th career victory.
This time around, Mineral Ridge (12-12) committed 32 turnovers. Columbiana finished the game with 25 steals.
The Clippers (21-2) led 33-4 with 2:46 left in the first half after going on a 21-0 run which spanned the first and second quarters.
Columbiana’s Kayla Muslovski finished a double-double. She led all scorers with 37 points, 10 steals and two rebounds.
“I though our kids played good defense, and I thought when [Muslovski] leaked our kids got her the ball,” Moschella said. “Our kids aren’t selfish. They know she can sprint and no one can catch her. There were a lot of good passes by [Tessa] Liggett and [Kennedy] Fullum and [Alexis] Cross to get her those points. We play as a team, we think as a team. I’m very proud of them. They played hard.”
Moschella commented on the Mineral Ridge suspensions.
“They were shorted a couple people, but what I respected from the team and from the coach is that they have the courage to do that and have the courage to coach his younger kids,” Moschella said. “They did a nice job and that’s what sports is all about — learning and playing.”
The Clippers will play Salem in the district semifinal. Salem is one of two teams to beat the Clippers this season. The Quakers defeated Columbiana 52-41 at Columbiana High School on Jan. 10.