By RICH KELLY
For the Star Beacon
When the star players from each team, the Lordstown Red Devils and Grand Valley Mustangs, scored all the points in an early 9-5 Lordstown lead in their Northeastern Athletic Conference battle Thursday night, it looked like a donnybrook might be in the making.
However, after Lordstown’s Sarah Cash and Grand Valley’s Jessica Vormelker pushed their teams through a close game through the first period and first minute of the second, Cash got more help from her team. The result was predictable. The Red Devils continued their fine season with a 57-38 win over the Mustangs.
Vormelker hit a long 3-pointer with 7:01 left in the second quarter to make the score 16-13 for Lordstown (17-3, 11-0 in NAC). With Cash controlling the paint area, though, GV was not able to establish any inside threat. An 11-0 run from Vormelker’s big hoop to her conventional 3-point play with 59.5 seconds left before halftime was all the scoring the Mustangs could muster. While they played hard the whole way, they were not able to get any offensive flow to work, and the closest they could get in the second half was within 14 points, which they reached 3 different times, only to fall back again.
Cash was the key to it all. The 6-foot-1 senior post, who tore her left ACL and cartilate last May playing AAU ball, missed her volleyball season and just returned to the basketball team in early January.
“At first, I was upset about missing the volleyball season,” she said. “I wanted to come back to basketball, which is my favorite sport, at the start of the season, but we decided to hold off until January to allow more healing. It’s not hurting me now, so I’m happy.”
She missed the first 4 games completely, then played briefly in the next 4 before putting more action on the court into her recovery. If this game is any indicator, she is almost back all the way. Her teammates have had time to play more as a team without her, too, and that was key in this contest.
Cash dominated with 28 points, 14 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocked shots and a steal. Ally Hajnosz added 12 points, 6 rebounds and 4 asssists as the Red Devils controlled just about everything most of the night.
One thing they couldn’t handle was Vormelker’s shooting. The talented junior nailed 27 points on 10-of-15 shooting, including 6 long -ange bombs.
“We knew Jess would get her points tonight,” Lordstown coach Dave Smith said. “She’s probably the best player we will face this season, or close to it. All you can do is try to keep her in check and stop her teammates. She’s got such a nice inside and outside game, staying with her is just tough. We were fortunate to keep her teammates under control.
“We’ve learned to have balanced scoring this season with the possibility of not having Sarah much of the time, and it paid off. We have 3 girls, Ally (Hajnosz), Talia (Tobin), and Marlena (Liming) who all score about 10 points a game, and that gives us good leverage to compete.”
They all were serious threats to score, but tough defense at times from GV (13-8, 5-8 in NAC) slowed them down, until Cash did something to lift them up again.
The Mustangs were not sharp from the floor, other than Vormelker. In totalling 14 of 45 shots overall, for 31.1 percent, taking away Vormelker’s 10 of 15 shows how far off the ball was in going into the bucket for the Mustangs as they celebrated Senior Night in their last home game.
“Cash is just such a great ballplayer,” GV coach Kim Triskett said. “She does a lot of things very well. She shoots, rebounds, passes, blocks shots and she has put in the time to heal her knee and improve her skills.
“We just didn’t play well tonight, especially in that 11-0 run in the second quarter. We may have regressed a little, in that we made mistakes we made early in the season and couldn’t recover from them. We needed to be more aggressive, especially going right at Cash. She had 2 early fouls, then we stopped challenging her.
“Our season is far from over, though, and we have the potential to win another game or 2.”
Kelly is a freelance writer from Jefferson.