WILLOUGHBY—After a poor shooting performance in a win over Riverside on Wednesday, the North girls’ basketball team focused on defense in its rivalry game at South on Saturday.
That strategy led the Rangers to a 72-28 win over the Rebels in South’s 9th annual Hoops for Healing Hearts game.
“We talked about executing a little bit better on the defensive end,” said North coach Paul Force. “The first time we played them they had 43 points so we really made it a defensive emphasis. We wanted to come out and set the pace of the game and get up and down a little bit. We wanted to keep them in front of us on the defensive end and make them work for their points. I think we did a great job of that.”
After the Rebels took a 5-4 lead the Rangers went on a 20-0 run, effectively putting away the game in the first quarter.
“We have that ability to go on a run like we did in the first quarter so we felt like if we played hard defensively we’d start to make some shots,” Force said. “It came sooner or later today.”
Anaunda Lyons started the run when she converted an and-one. Ally Lako followed that up with a 3-pointer and Destiny Leo hit a close range jumper.
Lako and Samantha Pirosko then recorded steals and finished them off with easy layups to give the Rangers a 24-5 lead.
South’s Erynn Daubenmire snapped the run but Leo quickly followed up with another three to make it 27-7 heading into the second quarter.
Pirosko finished with a game-high 22 points for the Rangers. She also recorded four of the Rangers’ 14 steals and pulled down six rebounds.
“Coach Force really emphasized defense this week so we were getting a lot of stops and then we could run in transition and get a lot of shots,” Pirosko said. “(This win) gives us a lot of confidence after our last game. We needed a boost.”
Leo, Lyons and Lako all finished in double figures for the Rangers with 16, 13 and 11, respectively, and Val Arnold finished with five and Caitlin Stuart pitched in with four.
“It was a good team performance,” Force said. “We weren’t satisfied with the way we played on Wednesday, so that made our preparation and our focus coming into this one even more so than it normally is for a rival game like this. I’m really proud of how they executed it.”
Lyons pulled down a game-high 10 rebounds. Leo recorded four steals and Lako led the Rangers with five assists.
South shot just 26-percent from the floor and hit just 1 of 15 3-point tries.
Mya Matriano led South with nine points. Emily Woodcock contributed with six and Daubenmire finished with four.
North improved to 13-1 overall and 8-1 in the Western Reserve Conference.
“I keep telling them our talent is there,” Force said. “I trust the talent we have on this team. If we can take that talent and execute on both ends of the floor we can be pretty darn good. Our execution today was pretty high.”
North 72, South 28
North (13-1): Lako 11, Pirosko 22, Lyons 13, Arnold 5, Leo 16, Stuart 4, Chlad 0, T Valaitis 0, S Valaitis 0, Weber 0, Johnston 1
South (2-13): Nuanmanee 0, G Heller 1, C Heller 0, Lett 3, Merk 2, Matriano 9, Daubenmire 4, Morgan 1, Woodcock 6, Church 2
North 27 15 21 9 — 72 South 7 7 7 7 — 28
Field goals: North 28 of 67, South 10 of 38; Free throws: North 10 of 12, South 7 of 17; 3-pointers: North 6 (Leo 4, Arnold, Lako), South 1 (Matriano); Rebounds: North 32 (Lyons 10), South 19 (Matriano 4, Woodcock 4); Assists: North 20 (Lako 5), South 5; JV: North