By RICH KELLY
For the Star Beacon
MADISON TOWNSHIP —
The Chardon Hilltoppers and Madison Blue Streaks had split their 2 games games in Premier Athletic Conference play this season. Each team won on its home floor, so the Blue Streaks had a slight edge coming into their sectional championship tilt.
That held true as Madison beat the Hilltoppers, 52-37, on Thursday night.
The Madison defense outexecuted Chardon in the second period as it advances to into district semifinal action to face top-seeded Solon on Tuesday at Kenston.
“We knew it would be a hectic night tonight,” Madison coach Mike Smith said. “We had studied film of them even though we played twice, and I have to admit, we may have overcoached the girls a little in practice to get ready. We played with great intensity tonight and the girls executed our defense superbly. You know you have to guard Kahrin (Spear) tightly, and Julie Bruening, especially, made it tough on her all night.”
The entire Madison defense was tough. They held Spear scoreless in the first half with multiple combinations of players on the floor.
One thing Madison does is put in subs for players who get 2 fouls in the first half, and when it happened to 3 players, the replacements keyed the stifling defense that held Chardon to just a Lindsey Lyons basket in the second quarter in taking a 17-11 lead at the break.
“We’ve got a rule I like to follow that if a girl gets 2 fouls in a half, they stay out for a while,” Smith said.
That rule enabled him to sub in Taylor Gustin, Kellie Duthie, and Annika Emmett in the first half, and they smothered the passing lanes completely.
With Taylor Bland providing key points, amounting to 8 in each half on her way to a 16-point, 8-rebound night, Madison (18-5) reached a point in the second half where Chardon was forced to fight harder to get back in the game.
It didn’t work,
Madison used a 8-2 run to open the fourth quarter and gain a 38-26 lead, and followed that with a 12-of-15 effort from the fre- throw line to pull out to the final difference.
“We had close games with them both times this year,” Chardon coach Dave Munson said. “They did basically what we expected them to do, but they’re such a sound, physical team that you can’t make mistakes or they jump on you in a hurry. We had a couple times when the moved out ahead and could have pulled away, but we never faded and always came back.
“We’ve only got 1 senior, Lindsey Lyons, who is a 1,000-point scorer for us, so we should be pretty good again next season.”
Ashley Duthie added 9 points as all 8 Blue Streaks who played got into the point parade.
Spear led the Hilltoppers (14-8) with her 13 second-half points, Lyons added 10 on a night when she rarely saw fewer than 2 defenders on her all the time, but nobody else was an offensive threat.
Kelly is a freelance writer from Jefferson.