By BOB ETTINGER
For the Star Beacon
It takes neither an emotional speech nor an angry outburst from Badger girls basketball coach Dusty Karr to set his team on the warpath. The Braves draw their motivation from their opponents beating up on them a little bit.
With its physical style of play, Conneaut unwittingly unleashed quite an angry beast in an 80-45 pillaging at the hands of the Braves on Saturday night at Garcia Gymnasium.
“We knew we’d be in a physical game tonight,” Karr said. “That’s the way Conneaut has always played. That’s been the focal point in practice this week so we could match that physical mentality.
“(A physical game) gets our juices flowing. It gets us playing hard. If we don’t have a physical game, sometimes we tend to float. It’s unfortunate it’s got to be that way. You want them to play hard all the time.”
The loss was a learning experience for the Spartans.
“The biggest message we got was adversity reveals true character,” Conneaut coach Tony Pasanen said. “Some of the girls showed us their true character tonight. Those who battled and didn’t quit are the girls we want to keep coaching. Those are the girls who are going to get better.”
Badger (2-0) outscored the Spartans, 12-2, over the final 5:28 of the first quarter to go up 16-7 through the first eight minutes.
Taylor Kramar set the tone for the Braves with eight points, five rebounds and two steals in the first period. She finished with 14 points, eight boards, five assists and 13 steals.
“That’s huge,” Karr said. “We’ve worked hard on our conditioning to be able to use it to get easy transition buckets. Taylor did do a great job with her quick hands.”
The Spartans (1-2) trailed, 31-21, at the intermission and had turned the ball over 17 times in the first 16 minutes of play. A minute and a half into the third period, they were behind, 40-22.
Pressing and trapping had only played into the Braves’ hands.
“In a half-court battle, we feel good with our defense,” Pasanen said. “We can’t afford to give up that many points in transition.
“(Pressing) is not something we wanted to do, especially because they’re so big and can go right over top of us, but at that point in the game, we’ve got to make something happen. If we sit back, they’re just going to run the clock.”
The Braves scored eight of their 19 points in the quarter on fast breaks that were a direct result of breaking Conneaut’s pressure defense.
“In the past, we’d turn the ball over when we got pressured,” Karr said. “Now that we’re confident, we look to attack when the pressure comes and we get baskets because of it.
“Before, we’d just try to break the pressure. Now, it’s become an advantage for us (when teams press us).”
Badger netted the first 14 points of the fourth quarter in holding the Spartans scoreless for nearly five minutes. The Braves netted 30 points in the final eight minutes and 20 of them were scored by Harlee Logan who finished with 30 points, 16 boards six blocks.
Izabella Armstrong added 14 points and 11 rebounds off the bench for Badger.
Natalie Bertolasio tallied 14 points behind four 3-pointers and Lexi Zappitelli was 10-for-10 from the charity stripe in tallying 12 points for the Spartans.
Ettinger is a freelance writer from Ashtabula.