By STEVE GOLDMAN
For the Star Beacon
FAIRPORT HARBOR —
The St. John girls have more than one process to undergo this year, and obviously those will take some time. That showed up in their opening 47-29 loss at Fairport on Wednesday night.
For one thing, the Heralds are changing their defense, using much more man-to-man this season. At times, it looked good Wednesday, but there were also other times, particularly when Shannon Harless scored 13 points in a 16-0 Skipper run.
That surge, which began late in the first quarter, extended a 10-8 lead to 26-8. The advantage stayed at at least 16 points until late in the non-conference contest.
Fairport has no seniors this season, but Harless is a very talented junior. Harless, who set the school record with 45 3-point field goals last season, canned three of those during the run, and scored most of her 21 points from the outside. She had 17 points by the middle of the second quarter.
Meanwhile on the other side of the ball, St. John turned it over 31 times.
“Definitely a lot of turnovers,” St. John coach Nick Iarocci said. “And it was really frustrating, because we were actually beating the press. We did a real nice job of beating it. And we would beat it, and then we’d turn the ball over.
“We knew coming in that Fairport was going to press us. We practiced for it. We have to learn ball security, and it’s something that we emphasize a lot. They’ll pay for it in practice (today), and they understand that. It’s something we’ve accepted as a team — to take responsibility for our turnovers.”
When the Heralds did avoid a turnover, they went just 12-of-44 (27.3 percent) from the floor. Particularly in the first half, some of their shots were rushed.
“It’s kind of a catch-22 because our leading scorer (Krissy Gallo) last year graduated, and we just looked to pass the ball,” Iarocci said. “So I really wanted them not to pass up shots this year. But in turn, that sometimes led to bad choices. So what we’re really trying to emphasize this year is reading the defense — just kind of do what the defense lets you do. It’s a process, and we feel we’re headed in the right direction.”
“I know we’re going to give up some bunnies by the pressure that we put on,” Fairport coach Ed Reed said. “They did; they got a couple good bunnies there. But I told (my team), ‘If we can gain more on our end than we’ve given up, we’ll be fine.’”
St. John’s Mackenzie Stenroos turned in a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds and added three blocked shots. RaeAnn Benedict added eight points and Liv Cimorelli nine boards for the Heralds.
“That was one goal (Stenroos) wanted to accomplish this year — to average a double-double for the season,” Iarocci said.
The Skippers (1-1) got 14 points and nine rebounds from Hannah Hites. She, Harless and Morgan Ondo stole the ball four times each. Harless and Macy Rowan blocked two shots each for Fairport.
Harless (11) and Hites (6) combined to score all of Fairport’s points in the second period.
“Hannah’s a small forward,” Reed said. “She’s 5-6 or 5-7. But she does a very, very nice job on the boards.”
“Credit Fairport for playing the game right,” Iarocci said. “(Harless) had an outstanding basketball game. She’s a good basketball player. But I was real proud of our off-ball defense. Our man-to-man is going to be baby steps. We want to hang our hat on our man-to-man defense.”
That defense did hold the Skippers to less than 30 percent shooting (19-of-64, 29.7 percent), although the 31-15 turnover differential helped lead to 20 more shots than the Heralds.
“I love our team this year,” Iarocci said. “We have a lot of people that can step up and score. We’re going to win basketball games this year; we know that.”
Goldman is a freelance writer from South Euclid.