The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Sports

January 10, 2014

Falcons flash past Champion

Jefferson overcomes early foul trouble for All-American win

CHAMPION — Jefferson coach Rod Holmes wouldn’t elaborate on it, but for the Jefferson Falcons, playing their starting five mostly throughout the game was the winning formula as they did enough to hold off the Champion Golden Flashes 64-55 in an All-American Conference game.

What was staggering throughout the first half was the way the Falcons (2-8, 1-4) methodically built up their advantage on Champion (4-8, 2-3) despite 10 first half fouls and seeing the Golden Flashes reach the bonus less than two minutes into the second quarter.

Working against that disadvantage, Sarah Brook got into some early foul trouble to eliminate much of an inside presence for the Falcons.

“Sarah has been playing real well inside for us,” Holmes said. “Being in foul trouble took her out of the game a bit. She got her third foul there in the first. When she went back in after getting her second, she picked up that third. She’s been our inside presence. Still, our other players picked up the slack for us.”

Yes, they did.

Emily Smock (12 points), Jessica Becker (17 points), and Deanna Comp (17 points) made their presence known scoring 22 of the Falcons’ 30 first half points

“First half, we did a lot of what we wanted,” Holmes said. “Though we did have problems finding their shooter tonight. Offensively, we were able to break down and get good shots.”

The Golden Flashes did lead after one, 13-12, and stuck around for most of the first half until the final 2 minutes despite shooting 5-of-17 in the opening half.

“We should have went to the free throw line more,” Champion coach Jeff Thompson said. “We had them in foul trouble, but we didn’t attack them enough and that was a big problem in that second quarter.”

The Golden Flashes were 10-of-16 from the charity stripe but struggled getting the ball to Izzy D’Urso who is essential to Champion’s success. She had just one field goal in the first half and finished with 13 points for the game.

“I thought in the first quarter, overall, we played pretty well,” Thompson said. “I thought eventually we lost our focus going into that second quarter. We got away from getting the ball to Izzy in the high post. She didn’t get enough touches in the second quarter and we turned the ball over quite a bit.

“Normally, we play a lot of man-to-man. We ended up going zone early on. They went up 6-0 so we changed up our defense. By the second, we were able to get back to playing our style of basketball — getting up and down, running, play man, and press. We cut it down to 6 a couple of times and then we just let them get open looks.”

Despite getting back to their mode of basketball of playing man-to-man which kept them within striking distance in the first half, Champion saw a 4-point deficit balloon out to 30-21 at the half.

“We were happy to be ahead at halftime,” Holmes said. “We haven’t been ahead too much this season in the first half.”

The Falcons were able to stretch their advantage out to as much as 15 at one point in the third quarter thanks in large part to draining those open looks.

Smock’s 3-point play at the end of the third quarter seemed to kill the Golden Flashes’ momentum as it pushed out the Falcons’ advantage to 12 heading into the decisive quarter.

“We cut it down to single digits close to the end of the third quarter and we just went brain dead and gave them an and-1,” Thompson said. “That was really deflating.”

Still, the Golden Flashes made it interesting down the stretch after D’Urso’s bucket made it a 5-point game at 58-53 with a little more than five minutes to play.

The Falcons were able to preserve the victory thanks to 4-of-4 shooting from the free throw line and a big bucket from Natalie Hamski in the final minute.

“They are athletic,” Thompson said. “They can run and have big kids inside. We just decided we were going to play our style of basketball, play up tempo because we knew they were in foul trouble. We needed to go after them. We got it to 5, but just couldn’t finish at the end.”

Fortune is a freelance writer from McDonald.

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