By STEVE GOLDMAN
For the Star Beacon
The Kirtland girls used an inside-out attack on Saturday afternoon. That, crisp passing and balanced scoring were enough to overcome a career scoring day from Sarah Busch.
The Hornets took the lead for good in the latter part of the third quarter, then pushed it to double digits before settling for a 59-51 home win in non-conference play.
Busch, a senior wing who also pulled down eight rebounds and blocked two shots, put in 27 points, but she was the only Falcon in double figures.
Busch turned in a 13-point second period in which she hit three of her four 3-point field goals. The third one gave the Falcons (4-5) their initial lead of the contest, 27-25, which they took into the locker room after trailing 15-8 at the end of the first quarter.
“Sarah played a great game,” Jefferson coach Rod Holmes said. “The first half, she was what kept us in the game. You couldn't say much more about how hard she was playing , how well she was playing and everything else.
“(However), we need double(-digit) scoring out of at least two, maybe three people to win ballgames.”
“Wow, is she a nice player!” Kirtland coach Bob Bell said of Busch. “Can she shoot the ball! You give her any space at all and she can knock it down.
“We were just determined in the second half (in which she scored 10 points) to crowd her. We just didn't want her to be comfortable. She just had a great game. She's a good player.”
Jefferson was able to gain a three-point advantage on three occasions in the third quarter. But after it held a 35-32 edge with just more than half of the period to play, Kirtland (7-3) went on a 21-6 spree to gain a 53-41 lead with more than five minutes remaining in the game.
Post Karen Somes (14 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 of her team's 12 blocks) scored six of her team's first 13 points of that stretch, and post Alicia Ponzani (12 points, 9 boards, 2 blocks) added the next six. Her layup as the four-minute mark approached gave her four baskets within a span of about 3:30.
The game Falcons didn't fold, and got within 57-51 on consecutive steals and layups by Sarah O'Connor and Jessica Becker (9 points), and one of two free throws by Ariann Barile (2 blocks) with 1:27 left. But Maggie Reilly responded with two foul shots seven seconds later, and neither side scored again.
Point guard Alexa Knezevic had 12 points and five assists, Sydney Kuehn 13 points and Olivia Mormino three blocks for the Hornets. Kirtland went 25-of-56 (44.6 percent) to Jefferson's 18-of-54 (33.3 percent).
“When you're going up against a good zone like Rod has – that group can run a 3-2 as well as any team I know and they play it very, very well – we knew that if we didn't attack it from the inside-out, we would lose,” Bell said. “And I am so pleased that our three, four and five girls (Kuehn and the two posts) all were in double figures. And had that not happened, we wouldn't have been able to overcome that zone because they were trapping the outside, they were running at people, they were doing a great job. And then to top it all off, when your point guard gets in double figures, that helps too.”
“I thought what they did well was they got the ball inside and they hit some open people inside,” Holmes said. “You've got to give them credit; they did a real nice job there.
“They moved the ball well, they got a lot of nice, open shots and they drilled them.”
Bell, who complimented Becker's abilities and potential, also identified his team's work on the glass as key. Kirtland led on the boards, 43-38.
Goldman is a freelance writer from South Euclid.