The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

December 30, 2013

Mustangs outlast Edgewood

GV claims tourney title

For the Star Beacon

CONNEAUT — The championship game of the Conneaut Holiday Tournament had all the makings of a closely played battle between a pair of up-and-coming teams. It went that way to the final buzzer, too, as the Grand Valley Mustangs used a big night from the foul line to drop the Edgewood Warriors, 51-45.

Tight defensive efforts from both teams made scoring field goals an adventure. Making shots with everybody standing around will always be important, and that’s exactly how it played out for the Mustangs.

They hit 19 of 30 free throws for the contest to just 4 of 8 for the Warriors, while the teams used short spurts to jockey for position in a photo finish. Chris Futty was 5 of 8 from the stripe in the third period and the entire Mustang team was 5 of 10 effort in the fourth by the entire Mustang team that carried them through several dry spells from the floor.

“Free throws really helped us out in the end,” Grand Valley coach Kim Triskett said. “Yesterday we shot the ball well, but for some reason, we were really out of our rhythm tonight. We need to be more patient, something which we have had problems with from time to time this season.

“Chris Futty came up big for us on the boards tonight, though, and when we struggle from the field, doing the other little things well is what has kept us in games. It did tonight for sure.”

Jess Vormelker struggled through a 1 of 10 effort from the floor in the first 3 periods, but she hit 3 of 4 shots in the last quarter as the Mustangs came from behind and then held on for the win.

Vormelker tallied only 8 points on 4 of 14 shooting, but she snared 6 rebounds, stole the ball 3 times, and dished for 2 assists in taking Most Valuable Player honors for the tournament.

Alexis Cassesa had the hot hand for GV (7-2, 3-2 in NAC) in this game to lead them in scoring with 13 points. Nine of those points came in the fourth period rally as a stifling Warrior defense keyed on Vormelker much of the night.

Chris Futty also reached double digit scoring with 10 points. Her 8-12 effort from the line kept her team close until Vormelker finally hit her stride in the last period.

“I try to tell the kids that good players will find ways to get things done when their shot isn’t falling,” Triskett said. “Sometimes it’s hard to get kids to understand that. They can play defense, they can rebound, and you hope they don’t press. You’ve got to credit Edgewood for playing a great game tonight, too.

“Steve (Kray) has done a wonderful job working with them. (Taylor) Diemer is playing hard the whole way, and Gia (Saturday) can be a deadly shooter. They are a vastly improved team since the start of the season.”

In holding the Mustangs to 30 percent shooting (15 of 50), with almost all of them tightly contested, defense carried Edgewood (4-5). Their pressure out front by the guards didn’t allow GV good entry passes to the basket, and when the passes did get close, freshman post Iesha Niciu was there to swat many of them away. She had all 7 Warrior blocks for the night.

“We played extremely hard tonight,” Kray said. “So did Grand Valley. This was about as good a high school basketball game as you can expect from 2 evenly matched teams, and we just came up a couple baskets short tonight.”

The Warriors had a bit more balance as 7 of 9 girls scored. Saturday was the only girl to reach double digits with 12 points, including 3 long range bombs for 3 points. Diemer added 9 points, Haley Holden tallied 7 while dishing for 4 baskets to lead her team in assists, Kaileigh Sloan scored 6, and Carrie Pascarella added 5.

While on some nights, though, a 4-8 effort from the line will still get you a win, giving your foes 30 tries with the clock stopped is not a good tactic, and it eventually led to the Mustang win.

“This is just all about the girls,” Kray said. “They’re working hard, and our guards did a great job tonight pressuring their ball handlers. Carrie, Kate Crook, Tayler, and Gia all did a fine job hustling to the ball. This is still a learning process for our team, and I couldn’t be more pleased with how things are progressing for us.”

In the battle for third place in the weekend tourney, the Ledgemont Redskins got a basket from Caryssa Cantrell after a fine pass from Amelia Sidley with 1.2 seconds left to nip the host Conneaut Spartans, 49-47.

Cantrell’s bucket spoiled a tie ballgame created when Conneaut’s Lexi Zappitelli nailed a long 3-pointer from the right corner with 6 seconds left to play to forge the 47-47 tie.

Ledgemont wasted no time getting the ball downcourt, and Sidley’s pass went across the lane near the hoop where Cantrell wrestled it away from 2 Spartans and put it in for the game winning shot.

“I thought we’d do a better job pressuring the ball tonight,” Ledgemont coach Pat Sidley said. “Credit Tony (Pasanen) for doing a great job with his girls, though. I can guarantee you I don’t want to play them again this year.”

Balanced scoring keyed the win for the Redskins (6-5). Alivia Sidley scored 13 points, Amelia Sidley added 12, and Taylor Erskine scored 10.

The contest was tight all the way, but the Redskins came back to snare the win by outscoring Conneaut 16-7 over the last eight minutes of the game.

“We’ve played some good basketball on back to back nights here,” Pasanen said. “The girls have put out some great effort, and have worked hard to really improve as a team. We had some situational mistakes tonight that hurt. It’s frustrating to come up short like we have, but we’re getting better in a hurry, and I hope it keeps on like it has the last couple weeks.”

Zappitelli again had the hot hand, netting 21 points including that crunch time shot at the end. Natalie Bertolasio scored 14, and Brooke Bennett added 10.

While Vormelker of Grand Valley was voted MVP of the event, the all-tourney team consisted of Vormelker and Futty, Zappitelli, Amelia Sidley of Ledgemont and Gia Saturday of Edgewood.

Kelly is a freelance writer from Jefferson.