By BOB ETTINGER
For the Star Beacon
The opening moments of the Jefferson girls basketball season might not have been directly tied to the final moments of last season, but there was definitely a link.
After falling to Conneaut in a Division II sectional semifinal in a barnburner to close the 2011-12 season, the Falcons outscored the Spartans by 19 over the opening eight minutes in a 45-29 season-opening win Tuesday night.
“We definitely came out ready to play,” senior post Ariann Barile said. “We remember the last game from the tournament (last year). That fired us up. We wanted to let them know we were here.”
The Falcons (1-0) outscored Conneaut, 20-1, in the first period and its swtiching defenses allowed the Spartans just four shot attempts.
“We came out pretty solid,” Jefferson coach Rod Holmes said. “I’m really happy with our defense at the start. Our defense played really well. They hit some 3’s, but overall, we played good defense.”
“To me, that was inexperience,” Conneaut coach Tony Pasanen said. “We don’t have that go-to player, right now. That’s what we expected. They’re all adjusting to new roles. That’s been our MO, whether it’s a scrimmage or the game against Ledgemont the other day.
“We start slow and pick it up over time. It’s a chemistry thing and a confidence thing that we’ll only gain with more experience.”
Conneaut turned the ball over 14 times in the first period and was 0-4 from the floor.
“It was a combination of the way they did things and our turnovers,” Pasanen said. “We can’t turn the ball over that much and expect to be in any game. We’ve got to stop shooting ourselves or we’re going to struggle against anybody we play.”
Jefferson was 9-15 from the field in the first period and turned the ball over just four times.
“I honestly think if we didn’t come out with that big of a lead, the game would’ve been a lot closer,” Jefferson sophomore point guard Jessica Becker said. “It would’ve been a lot harder to win that game.”
The Spartans (1-1) outscored Jefferson, 17-13, in the second and third periods.
“For some reason, we start timid,” Pasanen said. “We’re not aggressive at the start as we’re capable of being. You saw in the second half that we’re fully capable of it. It’s not laziness, it’s timidness.
“The same thing happened (Monday) in practice. For the first half hour, we were terrible. The last hour was great.”
Barile led the Falcons with 10 points and 11 boards. Holmes rotated nine players in and out of the game and all nine not only made contribitions, but also scored.
“That’s where working hard got me,” she said. “But I wouldn’t be where I am without my teammates. I know it’s cliche, but they’re the ones who push me in practice. Without them making shots and opening up the paint area, I couldn’t have done what I did.”
“Ariann’s our biggest hustler,” Becker said. “She jumps to the ball. She goes and gets it. That’s reason she gets so many (rebounds and loose balls) — she wants them.”
Becker tallied nine points and three steals, Sarah Busch added eight points, five rebounds, three assists and four steals and LeeAnn Farr netted seven points, five rebounds, three assists and block.
Conneaut cut the deficit to 11, 40-29, with 2:07 to play, but Busch took an assist from and scored while being fouled. She made the free throw then assisted Farr 30 seconds later for another bucket.
Lexi Zappitelli led the Spartans with 10 points, four rebounds, four steals and three blocks. Natalie Bertolasio scored six points and Lydia Coccitto added five more.
Ettinger is a freelance writer from Ashtabula.