The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

February 1, 2013

Spartans stifle Dragons

Strong defense, teamwork key for Conneaut

For the Star Beacon

CONNEAUT — The Horizon Science Academy Dragons offensive struggles proved costly on Thursday night as the Conneaut Spartans put together a total team game in just the opposite fashion as they had the previous night in a loss at Harvey, as they dispatched the Dragons, 48-33.

“I knew they (Horizon) were not a bad team,” Conneaut coach Tony Pasanen said. “They’re not as strong as many teams out this way, but they have some talent. We didn’t want to give them a lot of open shots. We wanted to play good team defense, and the girls really responded well after last night’s game.”

Minus two starting guards, battling grade problems, hampered the Dragons (11-5, 8-3 in Lake Effect League) from the opening tipoff. Stepping up to take advantage of that were Spartans Tori Simek, Brooke Bennett, and Lydian Coccitto. That trio pressured the young Dragon ball handlers into quick decisions with the ball, resulting in 25 turnovers. Ten of those came in the first three plus minutes of the second quarter as the Spartans (7-11) claimed a 19-5 lead they never lost.

Teamwork was the key. Conneaut had seven of 12 players score, 10 of those 12 snare rebounds, and six of them had assists. They played equally aggressive defense all the way, a key factor as the quick young Dragons couldn’t muster a steady offense.

“I was really happy with how our guards played tonight,” Pasanen said. They stayed in control of things. That is what got away from us last night. We had no answer for Mariah Pearson, who is a great athlete. I’d say tonight’s game was a testament to the character of our girls. Instead of forcing the action, last night we were reacting all night long. Tonight, we forced things much better.”

“We were missing two starting guards tonight,” Horizon coach Aaron Sayre said. “They’re out with grade problems, but the girls played hard. We just missed way too many free throws and we missed a lot of shots. We figured out how to get open and we played hard the whole way. We just need to stay sharper for longer periods of the games. We’re young, and we really don’t play a lot of teams as good and solid as Conneaut is.

“We got our press to work better late in the game and we made more shots, but you can’t dig yourself a hole like that and expect to come back.”

Freshman Margo Wherry came up with 10 points, six rebounds, 4 assists, and nine steals. Another freshman, Lyric Hampton, fired home a trio of 3-pointers for her nine points on the night, Danielle Echols scored seven to go with nine rebounds, and Ativa Whiten was a presence inside before fouling out late in the game with 12 rebounds.

Lexi Zappitelli paced the wide Spartan attack with 13 points and nine rebounds. Brooke Bennett added nine points, Lydia Coccitto scored six and Natalie Bertolasio fired home a pair of 3-pointers for eight points. Add in five points each from Dani Heinonen and Tori Simek, who had four assists, and the total team effort becomes much more clear for the Spartans.

“The girls made the adjustments they had to after last night,” Pasanen said. “The seniors stepped up again.”

Kelly is a freelance writer from Jefferson.