By BOB ETTINGER
For the Star Beacon
The Grand Valley girls basketball team may not have started off the way it wanted to in Saturday afternoon matchup with St. John at Mahoney Gymnasium, but the Mustangs eventually kicked into high gear to down the Heralds, 54-25.
The Mustangs held just a 12-8 advantage after eight minutes, but picked up the pace and ran to a 34-17 halftime lead.
“That was important,” GV coach Kim Triskett said. “We like to play a little faster. It was a Saturday game at one in the afternoon. That’s an early game for us. That’s why we decided to go to a full-court man defense.
“That helped us get the intensity up. That helped us. We wanted to force them to make decisions quicker than they wanted.”
Grand Valley (12-5, 3-5 in Northeastern Athletic Conference) was just 3 of 17 (17.6 percent) from the field in the first eight minutes.
“It just seemed that we were half awake (in the first quarter),” Triskett said. “We were just out of focus at the start. (St. John) took advantage of that a little bit at the beginning.
“KP (Kelly Preske) was out because she had her wisdom teeth pulled and Chelsea Stehlik didn’t start because she’s sick. Some things were different than normal.
“We had to get ourselves figured out and get back to a steady line. The second quarter, we did a whole lot better job of that.”
The Mustangs were twice as good from the field in the second, knocking down of 17 attempts. They also forced nine turnovers in the period and used an 18-2 run to take a 30-10 lead with 2:45 remaining in the half.
“We wanted to stay within 10 or 14 at the half. Grand Valley is a high-octane team. They scored 60 the other night and lost. This was a tough game. I felt we stood toe to toe.
“Playing Grand Valley will make us a better basketball team.”
The loss of starters Rae Ann Benedict (knee) and Brenna Powers (ankle), both guards, didn’t help the Heralds in that regard.
“Coming into the game, we had two starters out with injuries,” Iarocci said. “Grand Valley is one of the best teams in the county. I don’t feel the score was indicative of what happened. I feel we stood toe to toe with one of the best teams in the county. My girls were down in the locker room, but I told them we’re trying to everything around from last year. Hopefully, today was one of the building blocks.
“I have so much respect for Kim and her program. They do things the way they’re supposed to be done. As long as my girls stand toe to toe and don’t back down, I’m concerned with the outcome.”
Grand Valley fired off 76 shots in the contest, making 21 (27.6 percent).
“First of all, that’s good spacing,” Triskett said. “If we keep good spacing, we force teams to help and recover. The other part of that is patience. We got good shots. We had good ball movement. If we keep the floor spaced as we should and we get good ball movement, we should have ample opportunities to score.”
It didn’t hurt that the Mustangs had 60 rebounds, led by Chris Futty’s 11.
“(Liv Cimorelli and Mackenzie Stenroos) play hard every possession,” Triskett said. “They fight for every ball down there. You have to control them. Out kids played hard in that situation.”
Futty led nine Mustangs who scored with 15 points and Jessica Vormelker added 13.
With a big lead, Triskett was able to get some meaningful minutes for her entire bench.
“They played very well,” she said. “I want to get them opportunities to play in varsity games and get out the jitterbugs. They were in before and were a bit hesitant. Today, they did a really nice job when they came in.
“They shared the basketball, got perimeter shots and post shots. I’m really happy with them.”
Emily Powers led the Heralds (7-7, 7-2 in Lake Effect Conference) with nine points. Stenroos had six and Cimorelli five.
Ettinger is a freelance writer from Ashtabula.