By STEVE GOLDMAN
For the Star Beacon
MADISON TOWNSHIP —
Following a stretch in which they lost five of seven games, the Madison girls were looking for something to get them back on track. Based on what happened Wednesday night, it appears that Senior Night may have been just what the doctor ordered.
Even without star guard Taylor Bland, who has injuries to both ankles, the Blue Streaks came out strong and played well in all phases of the game in routing a good Kirtland squad, 69-34, in non-conference action.
Prior to the game, Madison (12-6, 7-3 in the Premier Athletic Conference) honored its four senior players — Dana Appelfeller, Danielle Johnson, Melanie Primer and Abbie Trivisonno.
“It’s a special night for us,” Madison coach Mike Smith said. “Maybe it took (that) for (us) to get going. Those four senior girls have given me a lot. So for me, it’s an emotional night. But it’s also a night where I tell the seniors it’s their last game (in this gym). And we tell the underclassmen they owe it to the seniors to really play tonight.”
Kirtland coach Bob Bell said that his team ran into a “buzzsaw,” and chuckled when he related that it was the second straight year that the Hornets played at Madison on Senior Night.
“They’ve been very up for the game, and played very, very well,” he said. “They truly were the stronger and more physical team tonight — there’s no doubt about it.”
The Blue Streaks shot 50.9 percent (27-of-53) while holding the Hornets to 31.0 percent (13-of-42). They pressured Kirtland (13-5) into 25 turnovers while committing just 14 themselves. They also had the upper hand on the boards by a 36-27 count.
Trivisonno led with 15 points, and Johnson, who started her first game of the year along with the other three seniors, added 14. Primer contributed eight and also tied with Trivisonno and Kirtland’s Alicia Ponzani for game-high in rebounds (6), and blocked two shots.
Tayler Gustin, a junior, also made her first start and came through with a 13-point, two-block performance. Julie Gavorski made it four players in double figures with 10 points.
Bland hopes to be back in action within a week.
“We didn’t match up well with their aggressiveness and their physicality - we really didn’t,” Bell said. “We kind of let that style of play take us out of our game.
“Madison (is) a bigger school. They play a lot of bigger schools. They play a lot more physical basketball than what we’re used to, and that really showed tonight.”
Sydney Kuehn led the Hornets with 10 points. Teammate Karen Somes blocked three shots, but struggled all night with fouls.
“Kirtland’s a good team,” Smith said. “They’ve already clinched (the Chagrin Valley Conference Valley Division). We have work to do, so I thought today, we really executed very well — real good balance.”
The Blue Streaks never trailed, using a nine-point run to break a two-all tie. After the Hornets answered, Madison extended that to 17-2 with an eight-point string, and then 23-4 with six more consecutive points. That made it 25-6 in the middle of the second period.
The Hornets ran off the initial seven points of the second half to cut it from 32-11 to 32-18. But Smith called a timeout, and that seemed to get Madison back on track. With the score 34-20, it went on a 22-4 surge, including the final eight points, to stretch the advantage to 56-24 early in the final quarter.
“I thought we just came in and played with confidence,” Smith, who praised his team’s passing, said. “That’s what we haven’t done in the last couple games. I told my players, ‘You know what? We’re pretty good. You’ve got to walk in the gym and act like you’re pretty good.’ And I thought we’ve been kind of playing on a not-to-lose tempo.”
Goldman is a freelance writer from South Euclid.