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Undermanned Rams beaten by LaBrae in first game of season

Staff photo / Brian Yauger Candice Miller of Mineral Ridge attempts to stuff LaBrae’s Laura McCoy during the first half of Friday’s season-opening matchup.

MINERAL RIDGE — The 2020-21 season kicked off on a sour note for the Mineral Ridge girls basketball team, as the Rams’ lack of depth was their undoing in a 52-29 loss to LaBrae on Friday night at home.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” Ridge coach Matt Cluse said. “One game at a time. I can’t look at expectations for the season anymore, just one game at a time. Niles is next. Can we play with Niles? Can we control the ball and not have 35 turnovers?”

The Rams are dealing with low numbers, with an active roster of nine. The team played well in the early parts of the game, but the shortened bench proved to be difficult for Mineral Ridge as the game went on.

The short bench and limited time together have caused issues for Mineral Ridge. Due to the success of the volleyball team, the Rams’ basketball team has only been able to practice five times leading up to Friday’s matchup.

“I thought we outplayed them (early in the first half),” Cluse said. “We were the better team and we just hit a wall where we just got tired. Some of the girls were playing in the JV game and I played three of my seniors in the JV game because I’ve got an injury and a girl fouling out in the JV game.”

Staff photo / Brian Yauger Mineral Ridge’s Danielle Aulet gets a hand on the ball in an effort to stop LaBrae senior Jenna Reppart from crashing the net.

Once Mineral Ridge hit the wall, LaBrae kept chugging along. The Vikings scored 15 points in the fourth quarter and began to pull away from a halftime lead of 26-18.

“After the first couple minutes I think we worked,” LaBrae coach Mandy Rowe said. “We had some early turnovers and we worked through it, and then got going a little bit.

“We got a couple steals which turned into layups, and then we hit a couple shots to widen that gap a little bit.”

The Vikings dominated the rest of the game, outscoring Mineral Ridge 26-11 in the second half. They held the Rams to two points in the third quarter.

“I was really happy with our defensive effort tonight,” Rowe said. “Holding them to 29 points I was proud of that. I thought we did a nice job of rebounding too.”

It wasn’t all bad for the Rams however. Senior Morgan Sigley had an impressive game with 11 points and had a solid two-way game, despite having limited time to prepare for the year.

“I thought Morgan (Sigley) played her butt off tonight,” Cluse said. “She doesn’t have a lot of reps right now coming out of volleyball, but she did everything we needed her to do tonight. She was in the right spots, right screens and did some things on defense.”

Rosie Nolder led the Rams with 12 points.

LaBrae takes on Garfield at home on Monday. Mineral Ridge hosts Niles on Tuesday.

As the season goes on, the Rams are looking for a player to take control and give the team a confidence boost.

“You look for that next person in line to step up and bring some confidence and some flair to pick up the other three or four that are out there, and we really don’t have that right now,” Cluse said. “If our five starters on the floor can’t get it done, we really don’t have anybody yet that is at that highest varsity level that can be the pickup girl.”

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