By STEVE GOLDMAN
For the Star Beacon
PERRY TOWNSHIP —
Despite having beaten Premier Athletic Conference foe South in two very lopsided decisions, Madison girls coach Mike Smith knew his team couldn’t take anything for granted in their Division I sectional championship matchup Friday.
“(South coach) Erin (Ertter) does a great job,” Smith said after the Blue Streaks used a fourth-quarter comeback to win a hotly contested game by a 45-35 count. “And South beat us here (at Perry) last year and knocked us out of the tournament. So we tried to use that as a little motivation.
“We beat them pretty handily (71-39 and 84-12) both times this year, (but) they were short-handed. (And) I knew they had a game under their belt (a 46-34 win over Shaw in the sectional semifinals on Monday).”
Sixth-seeded Madison (16-7) moves on to play top-seeded Mentor in a district semifinal contest on Wednesday at 6 p.m. in the same venue.
Madison indeed had to fight hard for this one. After overcoming an 11-point first-half deficit to tie early in the third quarter, it trailed by six entering the final period. But it outscored the Rebels 18-2 the rest of the way, winning despite a 20-point night by senior Mo Stohlman (7 rebounds).
With South packing the zone defense in and the Blue Streaks often hesitant to try to penetrate it, senior point guard Abbie Trivisonno stepped up. She hit five-3-point shots over the zone and finished with 17 points and six rebounds.
“We knew they were getting better,” she said. “They were a totally different team, especially after they beat Shaw.
“We were prepared for it. They still were playing better than us in the first half, so in the second half we got ourselves together, and we came back and we won a great game.”
“We weren’t really aggressive,” Smith said. “We were back on our heels a little bit. They did a great job of being in the passing lanes, and I felt like if we got it to the high post a few times to (Melanie) Primer, it might loosen it up. It did, and then we were able to knock down some outside shots.”
“We figured, ‘Let’s pack (the zone) in,’ because they like to drive,” Ertter said. “So we wanted to keep them out. And we said, ‘If they shoot from the outside; that’s fine. Then we’re going to get our rebounds.’
“I would have liked to see us get a few more rebounds. I would have liked to see us not foul as much; we had to take (some) kids out at the end of the game. But then (Trivisonno) did hit a few. Big players step up in big games. That’s why Abbie stepped up; that’s why she did what she did. That’s why Mo stepped up and that’s why she did what she did.”
Trivisonno’s fourth triple gave Madison a 34-33 lead with more than 61⁄2 minutes to go. After the Streaks regained possession on a Julie Gavorski steal, Trivisonnoi took a pass from Gavorski following a timeout, and drained another three for a 37-33 advantage.
Kayla Zarback responded with a jumper to make it 37-35 and break the 10-0 skein, but the 10th-seeded Rebels (6-18) would not score again, as they took just four shots and turned the ball over seven times in the quarter.
Eventually, Trivisonno followed in a shot for a 40-35 lead with less than four minutes left. With less than a minute to go, Julie Bruening (9 points, seven boards) converted a one-and-one to make it 42-35. Gavorski made three of four free throws to finish the scoring.
“Julie Bruening (is) just a sophomore,” Smith said. “We switched her onto Stohlman because Stohlman was killing us. So we switched in the second half to Julie Bruening, and the sophomore really did a great job defensively for us. I think that was probably the biggest key.
“And obviously, Abbie Trivisonno stepped up and made some big shots for us, which you expect out of a senior guard.”
Tayler Gustin had seven rebounds for Madison. Taylor Bland, who recently returned to action after suffering injuries to both ankles didn’t start, was limited in minutes, and did not score.
Mikayla Menn, South’s other senior, had seven caroms and three blocked shots.
“The kids played fantastic; I can’t be more proud of just how we turned things around at tournament time,” Ertter, who pointed out that her girls were finding out how much fun basketball can be, said. “We are playing team basketball right now. (It might have taken) us a long time to get there, but we get there. And that’s the important thing. We get better every game as a team (and) individually.”
The Rebels bounced back from an early 7-1 deficit with seven consecutive points for an 8-7 lead. Then they ran off the first 10 points of the second period, grabbing a 22-11 advantage on a baseline drive by Stohlman.
However, Madison finished the half with an 11-2 stretch to cut it to 24-22, as Trivisonno tallied her first points with a pair of treys.
The Rebels hit half their shots (9 of 18) prior to the break, and finished at a 43.8-percent clip (14 of 32). The Blue Streaks finished with the same number of baskets, but in 44 attempts. There was a big difference at the foul line, where they went 12-of-21 while South was three-of-four, with all its attempts in the first five minutes of play.
Madison outrebounded South 19-11 in the second half to finish with a 31-25 advantage.
Goldman is a freelance writer from South Euclid.