By STEVE GOLDMAN
For the Star Beacon
PAINESVILLE TOWNSHIP —
After losing the great majority of their varsity experience to graduation, the Riverside girls have had to start over this season under their new coach, Darren Jones. But Wednesday’s 35-33 victory over visiting Lakeside, a game the Beavers won in overtime, shows that they are making progress.
Down 19-8 late in the first half, Riverside (2-2, 1-1 in the Premier Athletic Conference) fought back and eventually caught the Dragons at 29 when Brianna Prugel converted a one-and-one with 1:15 left in regulation. Prugel scored six of her nine points from then on, adding a driving layup and two more free throws in the extra session.
“Just being more patient, under control, starting to understand basketball and what it takes to play through adversity,” Jones said when asked what he thought the difference was down the stretch.
Lakeside (0-4, 0-2) got a 12-point, 17-rebound performance from post Aaliyah Hunt. Hunt put in seven points in a 10-0 run that provided the 19-8 advantage, but was shut out the rest of the way.
“Our kids played hard,” Lakeside coach Dave Malone said. “We got big, big minutes from freshman Aaliyah Hunt tonight.”
“We played our zone but we played a box-and-one on her,” Jones said in reference to his team’s ability to shut down Hunt’s scoring after her follow-up more than two minutes before the break. “We wanted to force somebody else to beat us. We didn’t think that right now, they were trying to get it to anybody else but her, so we said if we could shut her down, maybe we could come back and win this game.”
“We didn’t get (Hunt) the ball (over the game’s final 22 minutes),” Malone said. “We did not get it inside. And we did a really poor job of time management at the end.
“This is the third time this year we’ve been in the game, and we need to play pressure defense. We sit back. We have to come out and force turnovers. We have to foul (when behind near the end), because precious
time is ticking off the clock.”
Riverside was thus able to come back and nab the win despite being outrebounded, 43-28, including 42-19 individually. A large part of that was turnovers, as the Beavers forced 16 after the intermission while
giving it up just four times themselves.
Riverside got almost half its points from the line, where it made 16 of 30 shots as compared to five-of-11 for the Dragons. Lakeside sank four more baskets (13-9) than the Beavers.
“We were all working really well on defense,” Shannon Garvey, who had nine points and five steals for the Beavers, said. “And when we all work together, we know what we can do.”
A 7-0 Riverside stretch that spanned the break cut it to 19-15 before Sarah Morehouse (12 points, 9 boards, 2 blocked shots) canned a 3-pointer for the Dragons. Kirsten Ponsart (13 points, 2 blocks) responded with four consecutive points as part of a 6-0 skein that cut it to 22-21 at the end of the third quarter.
The Dragons started the final period with a layup by Morehouse and Sharisse Hunt’s putback of her attempt at a three-point play, pushing it to 26-21. But the Beavers closed to 26-25 when Prugel fed Ponsart for a
layup on an inbounds pass.
A 15-footer by Kristen Keasling (3 assists) stretched it to 28-25 as the three-minute mark approached. However, Ashley Plassard answered with a jumper.
Keasling split two foul shots before Prugel knotted it. The Dragons then missed two foul shots before each side missed a 3-point attempt.
A Morehouse jumper gave Lakeside a 31-29 edge in overtime. But the Beavers tallied the next six points, with Garvey (9 points, 5 steals) hitting two free throws to go with a driving layup and another one-and-one by Prugel (3 steals)
“When I went to the free-throw line (late in the game), I just calmed myself down,” Prugel said. “I knew I had to step up and make free throws.”
Alexis Benedict made a one-and-one to cut it to 35-33 at the 1:11 mark.
The Dragons had two more chances, as the Beavers missed four free throws. But the first one was thwarted by a Plassard theft. Then Keasling’s try for a triple in the waning seconds went off the rim and
was rebounded by Garvey.
“Kirsten’s playing my guard and post right now,” Jones said. “It’s given her a new position (post), and she’s accepted the role very well. No complaints.
“It gives us an advantage, being able to take the tall post outside, which she can take advantage of.”
“My shot hadn’t gone the first couple games, and tonight the shots were just falling,” Ponsart, said.
“And my teammates were finding me — giving me open looks.”
“We had costly turnovers at the end,” Malone said. “They were unforced; they were unnecessary. We had good shots; they wouldn’t fall.
“I’m looking forward to playing them at our place.”
Erin Fahl had three thefts for Riverside.
Goldman is a freelance writer from South Euclid.