Girls Varsity Basketball · North holds off Chardon in defensive battle

EASTLAKE—Two of the Western Reserve Conference’s most potent offenses went head-to-head on Wednesday, so naturally both teams were held to season-low point totals.

North held Chardon to just 14 points through the first three quarters then held on for a 39-28 win.

“It was key for us to get out to a nice start, playing from ahead in that first half,” said North coach Paul Force. “We started a little slow in the third quarter but then we made a run and gave us some space. Credit them, they changed some things up in the fourth quarter and made a little run at us, but I was proud of how we executed.”

North averaged 55.6 points through its first seven games while Chardon entered the game averaging 52.5 points through its first six.

The Rangers led just 20-10 at halftime.

Chardon, who had scored just 14 points through three quarters, finally got something going in the fourth as the Hilltoppers used a 12-2 run to pull to within 34-26.

“They’re a good team and they always play hard,” Force said. “We knew they were going to make a run at some point. I told the girls at halftime they weren’t going to come in here and score 20 points and walk out of here. They were going to come and battle in the second half; we knew they would. We knew that run would come and some shots went in, but I was proud of how we responded to it. They hit us in the mouth and we were able to take that and still keep control of the game.”

It wasn’t all bad news for the Hilltoppers.

Chardon held North under 40 for the first time this season and limited standout Samantha Pirosko to just four points in the contest.

“I’m very pleased with our performance defensively and our execution defensively,” said Chardon coach Cullen Harris. “You’re going to have some lapses because that’s sports, but I’m really pleased with how we communicated and executed defensively. Hats off to them, when push came to shove they made a few more plays that we weren’t able to make.”

Destiny Leo scored a game-high 18 points to lead the Rangers and Taylor Valaitis contributed with six. Anaunda Lyons and Val Arnold finished with five and four, respectively. Caitlin Stuart also added a bucket for North.

Pirosko led the Rangers with nine rebounds and six blocked shots.

“Anaunda had some big free throws, although I know she would have liked to knock down a few more shots, and Caitlin Stuart went in there with a big bucket. Taylor had six big points,” Force said. “Any contribution we get from those girls is huge. Whether it’s four points here, six points here, eight points there, that’s critical to have multiple people contributing. People are going to pay a lot of attention to Sam and Destiny, so the other girls have to be ready for their opportunities and I think they were.”

Halle Landies, Lindsey Nichols and Faith DiLillo each scored six points for Chardon. Grace Bradley contributed with five while Tori Butala pitched in with three and Sydney Feller finished with two.

North focused its defensive effort on limiting Bradley’s and Landies’ production.

“We wanted to key on (Bradley and Landies) but they have a lot of offensive weapons,” Force said. “They can go and get 50 or 60 points in a hurry on anybody, so for us to hold them down for that long, again, credit them for coming out offensively in the fourth quarter, but it’s hard when you only have eight minutes to try and make up that deficit. The girls prepared hard to take away their primary options and I think we did a good job of that through three quarters.”

Bradley and Landies did contribute to Chardon’s fourth quarter run. Bradley scored all five of her points in the quarter and Landies added four of her six in that stretch. Nichols also hit a 3-pointer and DiLillo had a bucket in the quarter.

“I’ve never questioned our kids’ heart and desire to win and their fight,” Harris said. “That’s a testament to the kids and the community they’re raised in and their parents. It would have been easy after scoring 14 points in three quarters to say, ‘Here we go again, we’re going to be 2-5.’ They didn’t quit and they kept fighting. I like what we’re seeing from some kids. They’re stepping up and learning some new roles and I’m excited where we’re going. I think we’re going to be a lot better a month from now.”

North improved to 6-2 overall and 4-0 in the WRC while Chardon dropped to 2-5, 1-3.

The Rangers travel to Cleveland Heights on Saturday while the Hilltoppers are at Kirtland on Saturday.