By BOB ETTINGER
Jefferson girls basketball coach Rod Holmes understands his team’s limitations. He also understands what the Falcons need to do in order to overcome those limitations.
And what Jefferson had to do to beat Conneaut on Saturday at Garcia Gymnasium was play defense. That’s exactly what the Falcons did in dropping the Spartans, 49-22.
“We wanted to come out and play good D,” Jefferson coach Rod Holmes said. “That’s what we have to do. We don’t score a lot, so we have to play real good defense.”
Jefferson (8-11, 2-6 in All-American Conference) forced Conneaut to turn the ball over on seven of its first eight possessions and did not give up a field goal until Natalie Bertolasio scored with 52 seconds remaining in the first period.
“I’m very happy with the defense,” Holmes said. “The girls moved the ball well and we also rebounded really well. There weren’t too many second chances for (Conneaut).”
The Spartans (7-12), playing without starting post Angie Zappitelli (knee) were 1 of 7 (14.3 percent) from the field in the first eight minutes and turned the ball over eight times in falling behind, 17-2.
In the two games between the teams this season, Conneaut has been outscored, 37-3, in the first quarter.
“We know and understand we’re going to be inconsistent on offense,” Conneaut coach Tony Pasanen said. “What bothers us is sometimes we go out and we’re aggressive and play really well, then other times, we’re timid and we are not very good.
“Tonight we were timid. I can’t explain it.”
Jefferson turned the ball over just once in the first and was 6 of 14 (42.9 percent) from the field.
“We got stops,” Jefferson point guard Jessica Becker said. “Defense boosts our confidence and we play smarter, too, when we get stops on defense.”
Becker spearheaded that attack with eight points.
“I thought Jess played really well,” Holmes said. “She controlled things really well. She stayed under control. I’m really happy with what she’s doing.
“She opened up Sarah (Busch) and made some dishes to the bigs, too.”
The onslaught continued through the second period. The Spartans made 1 of 20 attempts from the field and turned the ball over 14 times.
“Once you make a couple shots, the girls are more confidence in the offense,” Holmes said. “When you force turnovers, you get more opportunities. That’s what the defense is there for, to get you more opportunities.”
Becker and Busch each had 10 points in the half and LeeAnn Farr added seven more as the Falcons took a 30-5 lead into the break.
“I don’t think we played very good team defense at all,” Pasanen said. “If you aren’t going to be good on offense, you have to be disciplined on defense. We weren’t disciplined at all.”
Busch connected on four 3-pointers in totaling 16 points, Becker had 12 and Farr 10.
“It was easier tonight, for some reason,” Becker said. “I felt in control more than I usually do.”
Dani Heinonen and Zappitelli each scored five points for the Spartans.
Ettinger is a freelance writer from Ashtabula.