By MIKE SHAFFER
For the Star Beacon
St. John’s girls basketball team had more to battle then the opposing Geauga Grizzles at Mahoney Gymnasium on Wednesday night, but the team was also feeling the effects of the recent flu epidemic that has been present this winter. The virus claimed the Heralds’ leading scorer Mackenzie Stenroos, keeping her out of action.
The Heralds were able to overcome her absence to defeat the Grizzlies, 32-19, in a game that Coach Nick Iarocci felt was an important win for his team. The win locks up a second-place finish in the Lake Effect Conference and more importantly, a bye in the first round of the tournament.
“It was the first time we were without Mackenzie this year and it definitely showed,” Iarocci said. “But on the same token, I challenged the girls to step because of the importance of this game to lock down that bye with the second place finish.”
The Heralds (9-8, 9-3 LEL) took control of the game early by forcing six turnovers and allowing the Grizzlies (2-11) just one field goal in the first period in establishing an 11-2 lead.
“What we prided ourselves on this year has been hanging our hat on our defense. We’re the second or third best team in the county for scoring defense. Tonight, we were in a funk offensively and our defense kept us where we needed to be.”
In the second period Geauga’s Holly Martin score all seven of the Grizzlies points to keep her team within striking distance.
“She’s actually a soccer player,” Geauga coach Chris Hanson said. “We have a very young team. The average age of our girls is about 14 and many nights we’re playing against seniors. Holly is transitioning to the game very well. She’s learned a lot and is going to be a very good player for us for the next few years. I’m really proud of the way the girls played tonight.”
Matin scored her last basket to pull the Grizzlies to within seven and it looked like they might have the momentum headed for the locker room.
St John’s Emily Powers, however, drove the lane at the other end and resembled Cavaliers All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving in delivering an under-handed layup in heavy traffic to push the Heralds lead to 18-9 at intermission.
“She’s our fuel, Emily plays with so much passion,” Iarocci said. “Even when she’s not scoring, she has the ball in her hands 95 percent of the time. (Geauga) were a scrappy bunch tonight and they were really giving her fits, but she kept going at them and controlled the tempo for us.”
St. John’s was led in scoring by Alex Ferrente with 10 points and Powers had eight and controlled the game’s tempo from the point-guard position.
“Alex has really been stepping up for us the last couple of games. She’s a senior and one of our captains. I’m really proud of her stepping up her game.”
Shaffer is a freelance writer from Ashtabula.