Following its 67-48 win over visiting Kenston on Wednesday, North sits alone atop the Western Reserve Conference standings.
The Rangers used a 16-0 second quarter run to pull away from the Bombers, who dropped to 8-4 overall and 5-1 in WRC play.
“Winning a conference championship and having a chance at a district final, those are things that are on our goal poster, but with how crazy the season is and with how much is left we’re really just trying to enjoy every game and prepare hard for it,” said North coach Paul Force. “We have eight (seniors) who aren’t going to be here two or three months from now. We don’t want to look past any game, conference or non-conference. We want to embrace the opportunity to play the game we love with the people we love playing with. We haven’t looked too far down the road. Knocking off an undefeated team in the league will probably put a target on our backs as far as the other teams are concerned, but we’re just trying to take care of what happens in our locker room and our gym and let the rest of it play out.”
The Rangers led just 22-16 after the first quarter then got a spark from Maddy Hamilton, who came off the bench to drain a pair of 3-pointers.
That momentum carried the Rangers to a 38-19 lead at the break.
Force used the halftime break to stress the importance of not letting up, especially in the early moments of the second half.
“We came out up 19 and we said we’re either going to extend this thing to 25 or they’re going to cut it to 10 or 12 right off the bat, so we wanted to hit first,” he said. “We came out and were able to get some stops and dominated the boards. When you outrebound somebody by 15 or 20, it limits their opportunities and makes it difficult for them to get back in the game when they’re trailing by double digits.”
The Rangers pulled down 45 rebounds to just 23 for the Bombers.
Destiny Leo led the Rangers in scoring and rebounds with 21 and 13, respectively. Samantha Pirosko added 16 points and 12 rebounds.
“We were all very excited for this game,” Pirosko said. “We had two weeks to prepare and we knew that it was going to be a dogfight. Our offense was generated from our defensive effort. We outrebounded them and that really was key to the game.”
Kenston rallied in the second half but the Rangers responded to each run and matched the Bombers point for point in the third and fourth quarters.
“Give them credit, they scrapped and played hard and kept doing what they do,” Force said. “They cut it 12 or 13 in the fourth quarter.”
Kenston had an opening in the fourth quarter when Anaunda Lyons fouled out with four minutes left to play and Pirosko followed with 1 ½ minutes to go.
The rest of the Rangers pulled together to seal the win.
“It was about a 15 point game so it was going to be difficult for them to get back into it,” Force said. “With the way Anaunda plays defensively and rebounding, we needed other people to step up. Caitlin Stuart played a little bit more minutes defensively and did a nice job.”
Taylor Valaitis contributed to the win with nine points while Lyons finished with seven. Hamilton pitched in with six and Val Arnold scored five for the Rangers, who improved to 8-2 overall and 5-0 in league play.
North hosts Ravenna on Saturday.
North 67, Kenston 48
Kenston (8-4):Taylor 4, Oglesbee 9, Hajdu 2, Maynard 14, Kryz 3, Apshago 11, Spehn 1, Peterson 4
North (8-2): T Valaitis 9, S Valaitis 2, Arnold 5, Stuart 1, Lyons 7, Hamilton 6, Leo 21, Pirosko 16
Kenston 12 7 13 16 — 48
North 16 22 13 16 — 67
Free throws: Kenston 13 of 26, North 18 of 25; 3-pointers: Kenston 7 (Apshago 3, Maynard 2, Kryz, Oglesbee), North 3 (Hamilton 2, Arnold 1); Rebounds: Kenston 23, North 45 (Leo 13); Assists: Kenston 10, North 10 (Leo 3)