By RICH KELLY
For the Star Beacon
The Grand Valley girls basketball team got off to a flying start in its non-conference battle with the Conneaut Spartans on Saturday afternoon at GV when Chelsea Stehlik grabbed the tip near midcourt and fed Jess Vormelker for a quick layup.
It set the stage for a 52-31 Mustangs' victory over the the Spartans.
“We talked before the game about getting off to a quick start today,” GV coach Kim Triskett said. “Scoring off that opening tip was important for us, and we want to preach team basketball and sharing the ball all the time.
“That’s what makes ball movement so important and we did a nice job today.”
That movement resulted in the Mustangs taking a 15-1 lead midway through the first period. Stehlik assisted on the first four hoops of that run and Grand Valley had an assist on their first six baskets and ended up with a whopping 17 assists on just 18 buckets in the game.
“Coach just keeps us thinking like a family and playing together all the time,” Mustang senior Brady Nye said. “She really worked us hard during the summer and we worked hard to get this good. It’s been a while since we were 4-0 and I like it a lot.”
A Holly Nye putback of a missed free throw with 30.6 seconds left in the first period was the only basket the Mustangs had all night that was not the result of a pass.
With solid, smothering defense, both teams had trouble getting the ball into the basket, but that first period for the Spartans was something they could not recover from.
“A lot of what happened today, especially early, wasn’t so much what Grand Valley did,” Conneaut coach Tony Pasanen said. “We just made a ton of unforced errors and didn’t respond to what was happening on the floor.
“You can tell Grand Valley has really put in a ton of time in the offseason playing basketball. Their teamwork and ball movement was phenomenal.”
Jess Vormelker was the ringleader for Grand Valley with 21 points, 12 rebounds and four assists.
Kelly Preske took feeds from Stehlik for the second and third hoops of the contest and Holly Nye hit a trio of buckets on her way to a 10-point ballgame.
Try as they might, Conneaut (2-3) did not get its offense into gear. The Spartans had opportunities in the first half, but the shots were not falling and the ball also proved to be extremely tough to hang on to.
A dozen first-period turnovers limited shot chances, accounting for a final difference in shots of 55 to 39 for GV (4-0, 1-0 in Northeastern Athletic Conference).
“Our defense got better in the second half,” Triskett said. “We shut down the dribble drive much better. Conneaut usually doesn’t run that very much, but we practiced it this week and were ready. They worked it well in the first half and if they had been making shots, things would have been much different for us.
“It’s ironic that they ran that offense because they are a good high-low team with their talented post players.”
Vormelker ended up with her double-double before fouling out late in the game. Abby Paskey chipped in for the Mustangs with eight points, and Stehlik, while going scoreless, added five assists.
Lexi Zappitelli paced the Spartans with 12 points and eight rebounds. A trio of hoops in both the second and fourth quarters was the best they could muster, but the effort was solid all the way.
“This is a good group of girls,” Pasanen said. “They played hard and work hard all the time. All we can do is try to get better every game, and I can see some positives in that area. We’ll take our lumps for a while, but we should be much better later in the season.
“We’re getting closer every game. Grand Valley is just a solid team this year. Much of that comes from all the extra time they put in playing.”
Kelly is a freelance writer from Jefferson.