By STEVE GOLDMAN
For the Star Beacon
MADISON TOWNSHIP —
The Madison girls got off to a good start and then held off Euclid’s charge on Thursday in a 56-49 win. That pleased their coach, Mike Smith.
“I told ’em, ‘We have a hard time winning,’ ” he said. “Now, that’s funny because obviously we’re 13-3. But what I mean by that is it seems like when we have the lead, we panic a little, and instead (then) they’ll just settle down and execute.”
Obviously, Smith would rather do without the “panic” part of the equation, but the whole formula worked in Thursday’s non-conference triumph. The host Blue Streaks (7-3 in the Premier Athletic Conference) never trailed, broke a 6-6 tie with 10 consecutive points, built the margin as high as 16 points twice, then withstood a Panther rally that cut the difference all the way down to3 points in the latter half of the third quarter.
When Rachelle White (12 points, 6 steals) hit two foul shots for Euclid, it capped a 6-0 spurt that ended a 17-4 stretch from the time the score had been 31-15 in the first half. The score stood at 35-32.
But after a Kellie Duthie steal, Taylor Bland fed Julie Gavorski for a basket., and then a three-point play by Bland made it 40-32 at the 2:23 mark of the period. Madison then converted a Tayler Gustin steal into a layup by Ashley Duthie, and then Ashley Duthie canned a 3-pointer to give her team 10 points in a row and end the quarter with a 45-32 lead.
“In the third quarter, (my girls) came out and put some things together,” Euclid coach Lynn Phillips, whose team fell to 9-6, said. “But we went back to unfortunately not executing things well . When we boxed out, good things happened and when we didn’t, not-so-good things happened.”
“I thought it was real big when they made their run,” Smith said. “I told ‘em at halftime, ‘They’re gonna make a run; they’re very athletic. They’re a good basketball team.
“They made the run to cut it to (3), and then we pushed it right back up. We held off their fight, we settled down defensively. I thought we did a great job on (White). We started to faceguard her in the last quarter, and not let her have the ball. And I think that was big; we made other people shoot, because she’s a really good athlete.
Ashley Duthie had 17 points and Bland 15. Gavorski added 13 with 6 rebounds and 6 thefts, both team-highs. Julie Bruening dished out 4 assists for the Blue Streaks.
“Taylor Bland’s our glue, and she seems to come up with a big basket or a big play (when we need it),” Smith said. “(She) is just a smart, smart player. She gets everything out of her body, uses her body well, takes care of the ball for a small post player. And when we need her, she handles the ball for us. But I think having a senior like Tayler Gustin on my bench, she always seems to come in and get that big rebound putback. And I just felt like she always tends to be in the right spot at the right time, and you’ve got to love players like that.”
The Blue Streaks twice built the lead back to 14 before a 13-4 Euclid skein cut it to 54-49 with about 30 seconds left. The Panthers regained possession with 14.6 seconds to go, but missed a 3-point attempt.
Tomariah Whitner had 10 points, 8 boards and 4 blocked shots, and Ra’Zhane Newberry 10 rebounds for Euclid.
When asked what hurt her team in the first quarter, Euclid coach Lynn Phillips said, “Foul trouble (White and Erin Haislah each had 3 in the first half), turnovers, not boxing out — pretty much the basic fundamentals. (We) couldn’t put it together.”
Each team had 20 baskets, with Madison converting one more 3-pointer. But the Blue Streaks made 13 of their 17 free-throw attempts, while the Panthers were 7-of-15. Smith was happy with that, but was even more pleased with the fact Madison hung with Euclid in rebounds, although the Panthers led 39-37 in that department.
“That’s a big team, and for us to be even in it with our rebounding—I’m very proud of our boxing out, and our execution,” he said.
Goldman is a freelance writer from South Euclid.