By STEVE GOLDMAN
For the Star Beacon
PERRY TOWNSHIP —
Madison girls coach Mike Smith lamented his team’s subpar shooting night in its Division I district semifinal loss to Mentor on Wednesday. A large part of that problem was the fact that many of its attempts were interrupted before they could reach the hoop.
Junior post Christine Dawson blocked an amazing 15 shots, helping the top-seeded Cardinals to a 57-43 victory at Perry’s Spectator Gymnasium.
Dawson’s teammates came through with eight more blocks for a whopping team total of 23. Madison (16-8) wasn’t intimidated and continued to go inside. But no doubt, the presence of Dawson and others had an effect on numerous other attempts, as the sixth-seeded Blue Streaks finished at just 15-of-72 for 20.8 percent. They hit just one of 18 shots in the first quarter despite holding a 6-0 advantage a few minutes into the game; at halftime they were four-of-36 and trailed 31-13.
Dawson also led everyone with 12 rebounds.
“It’s almost unfair to be able to put pressure on a team in the backcourt, just sitting back there knowing, ‘Now you’ve got another hurdle,’” Mentor coach Steve Thompson said.
“The nice thing about Christine is she doesn’t try to knock the ball through the wall on a block — just change the shot, tip the shot (so that we gave a chance to get the rebound). You don’t see that windmill block.”
“We did not pick a good day to go (4 of 36 in the first half),” Smith said. “All season long, we’ve been pretty much a 40-percent from the field shooting team. Now, obviously their length bothers you — they have such long arms.”
Madison’s Abbie Trivisonno opened the scoring with a 3-point field goal and free throw for a rare four-point play. Two split pairs of foul shots provided the 6-0 advantage, but Mentor (17-8), which had turned the ball over the first four times it had it, ran off the next 16 points for a 16-6 advantage in the first minute off the second period.
“We started 6-zip,” Smith said. “I think our approach was good; what we wanted to do was good, and I told them that. (But) to recover from (the first-half shooting) is really tough.”
The Blue Streaks hung in there, and trailed 20-13 several minutes later. But the Cardinals finished the half with 11 straight points.
“Steve did a great job; they kept attacking,” Smith said. “They never backed off; every time we seemed to make a run, they got the layup at the other end. So I’ve got to give them credit for that.”
Mentor answered the first four points of the second half with an 8-0 string, grabbing its biggest lead at 39-17. Two consecutive layups by Kayla Gabor (19 points), the second off a steal, made it 49-28 early in the final period.
The Blue Streaks answered with seven straight points to make it 49-35, but couldn’t get closer than 12.
Lauren Stefancin had 16 points, Lacey Miller nine boards and three blocks and Courtney Schutz three blocks for Mentor, which had defeated the Blue Streaks at Madison on Jan. 19 by a score of 67-42.
Freshman Kelly Duthie, who played little at the varsity level during the season, came off the bench in the second half to pop in a team-leading 15 points including three triples for Madison. Julie Gavorski added nine points and four steals and Melanie Primer eight caroms for the Blue Streaks.
“That’s exciting,” Smith said of Duthie’s performance. “We know what we have there. She’s going to be a very good player. (She’s) just young.”
The Cardinals went 24 of 53 from the floor for 45.3 percent. They did have 20 turnovers, eight more than Madison. The Blue Streaks gave it up only four times after intermission.
“I’m really proud of ’em,” Smith said. “They fought, fought, fought. And when you’re not shooting well, it’s hard to keep fighting. But I’m really proud of the way they continued to fight in the second half even without the ball dropping. And then it started to drop a little bit. If we just make even three or four more shots in the first half, I think it’s a different ballgame.”
“The first half, we made a lot of mistakes but we had the energy, the enthusiasm and the effort,” Thompson said.” And when you play that hard and you have athletes, they overcome a lot of mistakes. The second half, Madison’s the one that came out with the energy, the effort and the intensity. I commend them. They took it to us in the second half.
“We were able to throw over the top of the press a few times, but Coach Smith’s a very good coach and he motivates his kids. I give them a lot of credit for coming out and playing that hard with a lot of intensity. We need to learn from them that that’s the way the game needs to be played; we lost some focus in the second half.”
Goldman is a freelance writer from South Euclid.