Shiley’s 16-point night powers McDonald over Lowellville
Sophomore scores career-high 16 as Devils top Lowellville in defensive struggle
LOWELLVILLE — It took some adjustment, but once McDonald found a way to evade the full-court press, points started becoming easier to find, especially in the post.
The Blue Devils earned a hard-fought 35-31 victory at Lowellville Thursday evening, improving their record to 4-1 on a career night from sophomore Cierra Shiley.
She tallied 16 points, mostly in the paint, in what McDonald (4-1) coach Tony Matisi described as a “breakout” game for the sophomore post.
“We’re trying to get it into her, we’re trying to get her more comfortable on the floor, sort of a breakout game for her,” Matisi said. “We saw a little bit this summer, but she really had a nice game tonight.”
Shiley was more than proud of her effort.
“It feels really good. We knew we had to come out and be able to score. We knew they were going to be pressuring us, but we just had to fight back. We had to throw it up, we had never been pressured before, so we had to just work with it. We had some people open on the side, so we just had to throw it, hopefully get open, and slow it down a little bit,” she said.
“I felt pretty good from the beginning, I was able to make my shots, hoping to get more rebounds.”
Lowellville (2-3) led for a vast majority of the first half, building a small 7-6 lead heading into the second frame before developing a 20-16 edge at halftime in a low-scoring affair. Shiley hit back-to-back buckets to tie the contest at 20-20 early in the third, inducing a Rockets timeout just two minutes into the second half.
A 22-20 lead was soon taken by way of a Juliana Krumpak jumper, but a score off the hands of Lowellville’s Serinna Tych and a three-pointer toward the right of the arc by Sydney Procick helped the Rockets take a 25-24 lead into the final eight minutes.
Crunch time is when senior leadership is needed, which came in the form of Mariah Bregar, who scored the first five McDonald points of the fourth quarter as the teams traded baskets.
Eventually, the Blue Devils retook the lead for good on a wide-open three in the corner on an inbound play from Gracie Callow. The visitors limited Lowellville to only a single field goal during the final five minutes of play.
Bregar knew that once McDonald settled down, buckets would start to fall.
“We were trying to be very patient because we’re very used to going over and over and we were being pressured a lot, so we were trying to teach ourselves to slow the ball down, take our time and try our best,” she said. “We haven’t practiced much with pressing. Because of that we did struggle a little bit, but we came through by just looking down the court as having a lot of people up top, it left us with having some open people in the backside.
“I’m really excited to keep playing as we have a lot of young freshmen, so it’s just so exciting to see how they’ve come so far in these past games, so I’m excited to see how much further we can come in the following games.”
Matisi added, “We learned a lot in the fourth quarter. We did get better at breaking that pressure. I think we got a lot more comfortable at seeing what they were doing and knowing who to hit. Our guards came back to the ball, we learned a lot.”
Bregar and Krumpak each recorded seven points to complement Shiley’s 16. Lowellville was paced in scoring by Morgan Lewis (9 points) and Procick (7 points).
Rockets coach Lisa Modelski sees a younger roster that’s growing each game, but has difficulties protecting the paint.
“(Shiley) really hurt us tonight. We put some different looks at it, and she still was able to score, and we got so consumed with shutting her down that we just forgot about the other players on the court. Kudos to them — they had a wonderful game plan, they executed it well and they were deserving of the win,” Modelski said. “We don’t have a lot of size and with our youth, too. We’re just trying to figure out certain team chemistry and dynamics on whose best at what positions.
“At one point we had our guard (Serinna Tych) who did a good job at front and getting inside and banging (Shiley) around a little bit, but then some of our players were losing people, so it creates a mismatch challenge for us, but we just have to continue to get better with that.”