Girls Varsity Basketball · Rangers hold off Bombers in key WRC showdown

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BAINBRIDGE—North didn’t exactly have revenge on its mind when it visited Kenston for a Western Reserve Conference showdown on Wednesday but the Rangers couldn’t help but remember its 45-44 loss to the Bombers back on March 1 in the Perry District championship game.

The Rangers used that motivation and their goals for the 2018-2019 season to hold off the Bombers, 62-51.

“We talk about history with other teams because I think it’s important the girls honor history and tradition, but at the same time I preach that what we’re playing for and what we’re striving for is bigger than any kind of revenge game or anything like that,” North coach Paul Force said. “If you’re playing for your teammates and you’ve got a clear head and you’ve got love in your heart, I think you’re on the right path.”

With the first quarter winding down, North’s Taylor Valaitis converted an and-one to give the Rangers the first lead at 10-7 with 2:40 left.

Destiny Leo then reeled off nine straight points before the Bombers snapped the 12-0 run to end the quarter with North on top 19-9.

“I think early on we were able to exploit a good matchup,” Force said. “Destiny kind of got the ball rolling. She definitely set the tone early then I think other girls did a good job picking and choosing their spots.”

Leo, who finished with a game-high 28 points, drew extra attention from the Bombers and the rest of the Rangers stepped up to take advantage of their opportunities.

Valaitis finished with 14 points, Maddie Hamilton added nine on three key 3-pointers and Abby Carter and Avril Drew both finished with five points in the win.

“I’ve kind of preached all year that we don’t want to stand around and watch Destiny Leo all game and Taylor had some big buckets there in the second, Maddie coming out hitting two big 3s, I think Avril hit a big 3 in the second quarter,” Force said. “Obviously, she demands a lot of defensive attention from other teams but that’s also going to give girls other opportunities and Kenston is one of the better defensive teams in the area and in our league and I thought we did a good job of taking advantage of what they were giving us.”

North led 34-20 at halftime but, as expected, the Bombers didn’t go quietly.

Rayonna Peterson found her rhythm in the second quarter and that carried into the second half to cut Kenston’s deficit to single digits.

Peterson finished with 15 points, Catara DeJarnette added nine and Kathryn Taylor and MyKaya Montgomery both contributed with eight.

Montgomery drained back-to-back 3-pointers in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter.

“They’re too good of a team to come in here and lay down on their home floor,” Force said of the Bombers. “It’s become kind of a rivalry over the past year and a half here or so. We knew momentum early in that first quarter was important but basketball is a game of runs and you’ve got to be able to get hit and still come back swinging on the other end offensively and defensively. I thought they did a nice job of establishing (Peterson) inside. She got some big baskets there. She was bigger than anyone we had on the floor but at the same time I thought we had bodies around her and we made her work for her points.”

North improved to 11-0 overall and 5-0 in the WRC. Kenston dropped to 8-4, 4-1.

The Rangers host rival South on Jan. 9.

“Every game, whether it’s home or away, we kind of prep like it’s our Super Bowl and we walk out of here and feel good about it in the locker room but come in tomorrow they’re going to be locked in on South,” Force said. “That’s just how we do it.”

North 62, Kenston 51

North (11-0, 5-0): Carter 5, Hammond 1, Hamilton 9, Leo 28, Drew 5, Valaitis 14

Kenston (8-4, 4-1): Taylor 8, Skala 2, DeJarnette 9, Artale 2, Montgomery 8, Apshago 7, Peterson 15

North 19 15 15 13 — 62
Kenston 9 11 15 16 — 51

Free throws: North 13 of 17, Kenston 13 of 17; 3-pointers: North 7 (Hamilton 3, Leo 3), Kenston 4 (Montgomery 2); Rebounds: North 29 (Hamilton 7), Kenston 32 (Apshago 8); Assists: North 9 (Valaitis 5), Kenston 7 (DeJarnette 4)