By STEVE GOLDMAN
For the Star Beacon
Tony Pasanen didn’t know where to begin to describe the struggles his Conneaut girls had offensively in Thursday’s 40-26 non-conference loss at Harvey.
In their regular-season finale, the Spartans made just 9 of their 49 shots from the floor (18.4 percent), with no 3-pointers, and were 8 of 25 (32.0 percent) from the foul line. They went scoreless in the first quarter while the Red Raiders (4-18) built a 13-0 advantage.
To make matters worse, Lexi Zappitelli, who had poured in 36 points in a 65-48 triumph when the teams met in Conneaut on Dec. 17, went down with an ankle injury of unknown severity with 5:23 left in the game. Zappitelli put in her 13 points in the middle 2 quarters, and led her team with 7 rebounds. Harvey led 28-20 at the time she left, after Conneaut (5-17) had crept within 3 at 23-20 on a layup by Angela Cole midway through the third period.
Conneaut hopes its star can return for Saturday’s Division II sectional semifinal bout with archrival.
“Honestly, we just made sure that we didn’t let the ball get into the high post,” Harvey coach John Sams, who received an 18-point, 15-rebound, 2-block performance from Thelma Pagan, said. “They like to move her around the high post. She got a lot of twos and then she can float out and get the three. We made sure we knew where she was at all times. That was our game plan — know where she’s at all the time.”
“They did a great job there,” Pasanen said in referring to keeping the ball out of the post. “We just didn’t shoot the ball well from the outside, which didn’t open anything on the inside.
“That was the whole key. We didn’t knock down any from the outside. When that’s happening, you’ve got to be able to score in transition. We weren’t scoring in transition either.”
Not that the Spartans lacked in opportunities there. They forced 38 turnovers, with Brooke Bennett getting 8 of her team’s 18 steals. In fact, the Red Raiders won despite incurring one more turnover than they had shot attempts.
“I told the girls after the game, I don’t even know how to analyze it,” Pasanen said. “I’m proud of the defensive effort. I thought defensively, we did an outstanding job. The way I described it to them is that it looked like we were looking to take shots, not looking to make shots.”
“You’ve got to give (the Red Raiders) some credit. They did a nice job, but at the same time, those are shots that we’ve been making.”
“We’ve grown as a team,” Sams said. “We’re maturing. We’re growing into a basketball team.
“(Pagan) is solid. She’s not a big girl but she’s strong and she’s aggressive. Her stats show it.”
Conneaut started the game with 8 turnovers versus two shots taken, and finished with 24 giveaways. It got back in the game with the help of a 10-3 second quarter in which it forced 14 turnovers and limited Harvey to a trey by Kaitlyn Boykin, who added 3 more triples in the second half for 12 points. In fact, two of Boykin’s trifectas started and ended a 10-1 spurt that stretched a 30-24 lead to 40-25.
C’era Grimes and Makenna Kelly had 7 boards each for the Red Raiders to help them to a 45-32 advantage in that department. Teammate Allona Frame contributed 7 assists and 4 thefts. Kelly also blocked two shots and Cherish Montgomery 3, although Montgomery fouled out in the first minute of the fourth frame.
The Red Raiders went just 7 of 17 from the foul line, including 5 of 13 in the fourth quarter.
Goldman is a freelance writer from South Euclid.