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Boardman falls to unbeaten Lake

BOARDMAN — The Boardman Spartans girls basketball team has high hopes for the 2023-2024 season. Their game against the undefeated Uniontown Lake Blue Streaks on Wednesday night gave them a great barometer of exactly where they are in the process.

With a 68-50 loss to the Blue Streaks, they will need to regroup and bounce back for the long season ahead. The loss drops the Spartans to 2-1 on the season while the Blue Streaks improve to 4-0.

“You go into the locker room, and everyone is upset, but we have 19 more games,” Spartans head coach Jeff Hammerton said. “That is the reality, and you want to play teams like this. That is a really good basketball team, and they shot the ball well tonight.”

“I told our girls that this is the game that we are going to really get tested,” Blue Streaks head coach Ashley Phipps said. “They (Boardman) shoot the ball well, even though Jeff said they didn’t shoot it well tonight. But I still feel they shot the ball well. They play hard and they rebound so we made sure that we didn’t give them any extra opportunities. I don’t think the score indicates what a good team they really are. They are solid.”

The Blue Streaks demonstrated why they are off to such a hot start to the season as they shot 58% from the field in the first half to build a 30-22 lead at the intermission. They closed the first quarter with an 8-0 run to hold a 16-7 advantage. By the 2:46 mark of the second period they had built an 11-point, 26-15 lead.

“We have a really good corps group of seniors,” Phipps said. “We start with three seniors, and they are experienced and are very good basketball players. We are playing really good team basketball, especially this early in the year.”

The Blue Streaks had three players in double-digit scoring with Serenitee Johnson leading the way with 21 points, followed by Paige Marshall with 20. Emma Anderson added another 12 to help the Blue Streaks offense.

However, it was in the third quarter that the Blue Streaks took full control of the contest with a 16-3 run to start the second half. Following a layup and free throw at the 3:22 mark of the frame, the Blue Streak held a commanding 46-25 lead, deflating the home team Spartans.

“I think we got a little frustrated,” Hammerton said. “I called a timeout to see how we would respond. I didn’t love how we responded there, but that is a coachable moment, and we will work on that tomorrow. When you take it to the hole and you miss, and now you only get one shot, and then the shoulders shrug and out they (Blue Streaks) go. They are going to keep pressuring you.”

But the Spartans battled the remainder of the period with junior forward Sarah Bero providing a spark. She would score a basket and knock down two free throws to help stabilize the contest despite the Blue Streaks holding a 54-31 lead by the end of the quarter.

“I changed the defense four times, and I still couldn’t find anything to stop them,” Hammerton said. “When the score really got inflated is when I started gambling like crazy and we were trying to get steals. But they are so good at passing the ball that they just beat the press and got easy layups.”

Bero led the Spartans in the scoring column with 13 points on the night and on the boards with nine rebounds. Mackenzie Riccitelli followed her with 10 points in the game. Sam Duble knocked down three treys, scoring nine points in the contest.

The Spartans continued to show their mettle in the fourth quarter as they outscored the Blue Streaks 19-14. They were powered by a jumper and three by freshman Mikayla Rivera who came off the bench.

“I think the one thing that we really need to focus on now is getting the girls back. It’s very easy when things are going well, but a basketball season is so long, and they are going to face adversity. The next two days are very important for us and moving forward. The one thing we are going to work on is getting mentally tough (so) that when things start going bad, let’s find a way to fight through it,” Hammerton said.

The Spartans will play again Saturday when they travel to neighboring rival Poland.

sports@vindy.com

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