CONNEAUT — The Conneaut Lady Spartans got off to a fast start and never trailed in a 54-43 Division III girls basketball sectional tournament win over Rootsown on Wednesday night.
Conneaut (12-11) moves on in the tournament and will play at Newton Falls on Saturday for a sectional championship.
Senior forward Tully Taylor led the Spartans with 21 points on 10-for-17 shooting and grabbed 19 rebounds. Sophomore guard Savanna Sanford added 10 points and senior forward Payton Walker collected 10 rebounds for Conneaut.
The Spartans opened the game with an 11-2 run and led 20-8 after the first quarter as Taylor scored eight points. Conneaut maintained the lead in the second quarter and took a 30-18 halftime advantage.
In the second half, Conneaut built a 17-point lead and was up 46-29 with about seven minutes remaining. Rootstown (7-14) cut the deficit down to 11 points in the last three minutes after implementing a constantly trapping defense, but couldn’t get any closer.
“It was just an unbelievable team effort,” Spartans coach Tony Pasanen said. “I was a little nervous because we had 10 days off since our last game. We had a lot of time to prepare and the girls just executed the game plan perfectly. My biggest concern after those 10 days was being able to take care of the ball because I knew we’d see full-court man (defense) and I knew we’d see pressure.”
Pasanen credited the play of his guards Hannah Clark, KJ Hass, Lydia Mozzocco and Annalee Hagstrom.
“They just did a phenomenal job controlling the game and getting the ball inside and that’s what it all boiled down to,” he said.
Pasanen added Sanford had a big game scoring in the post. He was pleased with the team’s interior passing.
“What I’ve been really impressed with in the past 10 days and toward the end of the season is our post passing,” Pasanen said. “They are doing a really good job passing to each other and that’s really difficult to defend.”
Rootstown coach Chip Bittecuffer said his team didn’t shoot well enough to make up for the first quarter deficit.
The Spartans defense held the Rovers to just 23.7 percent shooting on 14 of 59 attempts.
“They were good at stopping us in transition,” Bittecuffer said. “We’ve got to make shots and in the first half we weren’t making any shots.”
Madison Moneypenny led the Rovers with 15 points.