By BOB ETTINGER
For the Star Beacon
Something was a bit off. Nobody is entirely sure exactly what it was, but it just felt off somehow. In the end, however, the Geneva girls basketball team fought it’s way out of its version of the Twilight Zone to claim a 66-24 victory over visiting Conneaut in a Division II sectional championship game Thursday night.
“I thought it was (strange game), too,” Geneva coach Nancy Barbo said. “I don’t know why that was, maybe because it was a tournament game at home? I don’t know if it was because we weren’t used to that, or what. There just was not the intensity that should be involved in a tournament game.”
For Conneaut coach Tony Pasanen, that first 11:24 was exactly what he needed to see from the Spartans.
“For us, it’s just a grind,” he said. “We knew everything we did, we had to do really well. We had to communicate, box out and be physical. On the offensive end, we wanted to be aggressive. The first time we played them, we were a bit timid. For us, it’s about winning ugly.
“It’s got to be a grind. We did a great job staying after it and being aggressive. We just ran out of gas.”
It took a 4:36 stretch in which the Eagles outscored the Spartans, 10-1, to close the first half for Geneva to take control.
“That, honestly, is an extremely talented team,” Pasanen said. “I thought our girls were going to have to come out and play one of most physical and aggressive games for us to compete.
“We lost Angela (Cole, following a collision with Geneva guard Lindsey Mayle) and we started to get a little thin. With Geneva, you just can’t give them any space. Our girls came out and did a great job of that. We were still playing hard, we just ran out of gas a little bit.”
With the win, the second-seeded Eagles (15-6) earned a berth in a Division II district semifinal where they will play 6th-seeded Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin on Monday at Lakeside. The Lions knocked off 3rd-seeded Glenville, 56-47, Thursday night.
After closing the first half strongly, Geneva got 3-pointers from Emily Ball and Mayle to open the 3rd period for a 35-15 lead.
“We knew we wanted to start the second half off with some sort of special play to give us a good look,” Barbo said. “Thankfully, we knocked it down. That gave us confidence to come out and score quickly to start the second half.”
Mayle led the Eagles with 21 points, Ball had 11 and Alyssa Scott added 9.
Lexi Zappitelli netted 11 points and 14 boards for the Spartans (6-18).
Ettinger is a freelance writer from Ashtabula.