South Range takes down Struthers, 42-41
BEAVER TOWNSHIP — The South Range Raiders celebrated senior night with quite a big party. They enjoyed winning their last home game of the season and pulled off a big 42-41 upset of the NE-8 second-place team in the Struthers Wildcats.
The Raiders senior forward Emma Cunningham closed her home career with a game-high 16 points to help lead the Raiders. Defensively, she was able to keep the Wildcats standout guard Chloe Neider in check as she tallied 10 points on the night.
“Oh my gosh, it felt awesome, especially that this is the last time we are playing together on our home court,” Cunningham said. “We really wanted to make it worthwhile.”
Taylor McClish, the Raiders’ other senior on the roster, also helped the cause by scoring four of her eight points in the fourth quarter to help preserve the victory when the Wildcats were making a late-game push.
The Wildcats fall to 14-8 overall on the season and finished second in the NE-8 as the Poland Bulldogs won earlier in the night to clinch the league. The Wildcats finish 11-3 in the league.
“It was their senior night, and we knew they were going to have a lot of energy, and I thought we were a little bit flat,” Wildcats coach Bill Neider remarked. “But any time you get toward the end of the season, you want to keep going.”
Both coaches agreed that the Raiders’ energy from tip-off to the final buzzer was the deciding factor in the contest. They were able to control the boards in the first half as they seized the lead midway through the first quarter and never surrendered it back.
“We played with a ton of energy. Our underclassmen knew it, and they wanted this one tonight,” South Range coach Jeff Fishel added. “I’m so proud of our underclassmen because they went out and spent a bunch of money and time decorating for senior night just to help make it special for them and then they performed out on the court where it matters.”
The Raiders who improved to 10-9 on the year and close the season 9-5 in the NE-8, led at the end of the first quarter 12-9, but it was a 10-4 run in the second period that started to give them separation as they went up 22-13 at the 2:31 mark following a Cunningham basket. The Wildcats answered with two baskets to close the margin to 22-17 at the halftime break.
Cunningham took charge of the game at the start of the second half as she knocked down three consecutive shots to power the Raiders to a game-high 11-point advantage at 28-17 with 5:08 remaining in the third quarter.
Once again, the Wildcats clawed their way back with an 8-2 run to close the deficit to five at 30-25 by the end of the third period.
“She came up time after time tonight in big moments,” Fishel said of Cunningham. “When we needed a play, Emma was there like a senior leader should be, and I am so proud of her.”
Following a bucket by Faith Stellato just 25 seconds into the fourth frame, the Wildcats had closed the lead to within two at 30-28. But the Raiders responded with an 8-0 run to make it 38-28 with 5:23 left in the contest.
The Wildcats continued to chip away at the Raiders’ lead right to the final buzzer as Chloe Neider hit a three as time expired to make it a 1-point final margin.
“I’m proud of them. We kept coming at them and tried to work our way back into it,” Neider said of the Wildcat’s effort. “And it seemed like every time we were just getting there, they would make a play.”
The Wildcats’ next contest will be the first round of the OHSAA playoffs as they will host Alliance next Wednesday night. The Raiders’ next game will be Thursday night when they travel to Western Reserve.