There was nothing fancy about the Olmsted Falls girls basketball team’s approach to its game on Dec. 22. Just good, old-fashioned hustle.

In a resounding 69-42 Southwestern Conference victory over visiting Avon, the Bulldogs seized control midway through the first quarter and never looked back, leading by as many as 30 points. They did so by performing the dirty work – pressuring defense and tireless rebounding – that coaches preach during practice when nobody’s watching. 

As has been the case throughout the team’s 8-0 start to the season, focus on the grittier aspects of the game made for a rewarding night against a conference rival.

The Bulldogs (8-0, 6-0 SWC) outrebounded the Eagles (4-2, 3-2 SWC) 34-18 (12-8 offensive), harassed them into 15 first-half turnovers and used all of those transition runs and extra possessions to increase their lead.

“It’s nice when that happens because we do spend a lot of time working on those things,” Bulldogs coach Jordan Eaton said. “That really is a good thing for our team to see, and I give them a lot of credit for buying into that, because those aren’t necessarily the fun things to do in practice.”

Trailing 6-3 early in the first, they went on a blistering 23-2 run to close with a 26-8 lead, then upped it to 50-20 by halftime. Led by junior forward Mia Kalich, a full-court press gave the Eagles trouble throughout the half and allowed the Bulldogs to pile up most of their 14 total steals for the night. Kalich had five of them.

Kalich also was the driving force behind the Bulldogs’ rebounding advantage. She finished with 13, including six on the offensive glass. nearly half of her 17 points came in transition.

“I think we just came out on fire,” she said. “Our coaches put a scouting report together and we just followed it. We knew (Avon) wasn’t the best team at boxing out, so we knew we could get offensive rebounds. We knew if we pressured in the backcourt we could get steals and score.”

Defense continually fueled a Bulldogs offense that shot 47% from the field and knocked down 10 3-pointers – six in the second quarter alone. Junior guard Paige Kohler paced the team on that end with 25 points and six assists. Senior Lauren Noernberg scored 13 and Danielle Cameron had nine.

The blue-collar effort plays made the majority of those buckets possible.

“It’s contagious,” senior guard Sara Glover said of the effort. “Once one person gets a steal, then the next person’s going to try as hard as they can to get one, too, and cheer each other on. It spreads energy to the whole gym.”

A 30-point margin in the third quarter triggered a running clock, but the Eagles continued to battle. They outscored the Bulldogs 22-19 in the second half and swiped nine steals. 

Senior guard Abby Liber scored nine of her team-high 16 points in the final two quarters, adding six rebounds, three assists and four steals. Brooke Laub scored eight and grabbed three rebounds.

“When you play a very good basketball team, you have to take care of the ball and pay attention to the small details,” Eagles coach Meghan Larrick said. “I think we allowed those small details to slip through our fingers tonight in the first half, which put us in a large hole we weren’t able to overcome. It’s something we need to work on. We need to learn that we have to crash the boards every time and box out, because those second-chance points and 3-pointers that came because we weren’t crashing, they added up.”

Avon will be back in SWC action on Jan. 5 when it hosts Berea-Midpark at 7 p.m. Olmsted Falls will head to Arizona to take part in the Cactus Jam tournament over holiday break. On Dec. 27, the Bulldogs will face Seattle Prep.

Contact this reporter at or 440-871-5797.

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