With only two returning varsity players in the starting lineup and a host of newcomers, the North Ridgeville girls basketball team is learning as it goes this season.

But some lessons are tougher than others, which they learned in a 64-25 loss at home to Olmsted Falls on Dec. 30.

The more veteran Bulldogs dominated play from the second quarter on, forcing the Rangers into 16 turnovers and outscoring them 49-14 during the 24-minute stretch. In all, the Rangers (5-3, 2-3 SWC) committed 25 turnovers under withering Bulldog pressure.

“I just felt like (Olmsted Falls) was like a well-oiled machine,” Rangers coach Amy Esser said. “Credit to them. They’re just a really good defensive team. We’ve gone over how to break presses and deal with that pressure, it’s hard to mimic what they actually do on the court.”

“We’re young, we have a young bench, and we’re learning on the fly,” she said. “We haven’t seen that type of competition yet this year. Olmsted Falls is one of the best teams in the state right now.”

Freshman forward Grace Kingery continued her impressive first varsity season with 10 points and 10 rebounds, but only made one shot after the first quarter. Senior guard Mady Rosado scored 7 points to go along with three steals.

The Rangers trailed 15-11 after the first quarter, and it would’ve been closer had Bulldogs sophomore Paige Kohler not banked in a 3-pointer right as the buzzer sounded. The Rangers trailed 22-16 midway through the second and were battling the Bulldogs before the game turned completely.

The Bulldogs (5-1, 4-0 SWC) started using turnovers to fuel their fast break, and they strung together a 7-0 run to close the half up 29-16. They forced six Ranger turnovers in the first three minutes of the third, then ended it on a 14-0 run for a 54-21 lead. Both teams emptied their benches in the fourth, with the Bulldogs closing out their fifth win in a row.

“(Good defense) is just how we roll,” said Bulldogs senior guard Lauren Galaska, who finished with eight points. “It’s what we stress a lot, that defense creates our offense. So when everybody’s just doing the little things and really digging deep, it just works for us. When you get those defensive stops, it builds momentum.”

When it came to game-breaking defense, Ranger turnovers acted as jet fuel for the Bulldogs. According to head coach Jordan Eaton, exhaustive practice at that end of the floor paid off.

“We spend a lot of time in practice getting ourselves in really good physical shape, and a lot of times at practice that’s not very much fun,” Eaton said. “But it’s fun when you play that way (like tonight). You have to give the kids credit for being coachable and for getting in the best shape they can possibly be in so they can run up and down the floor all game.”

Senior point guard Allison Milligan led all scorers with 15 points, with Sara Glover adding 11, Grace Simon nine and Mia Kalich seven with a team-high eight rebounds. Of the 14 players who saw action, 10 scored.

“Teams can plan for one or two kids, but it’s hard to plan for seven,” Eaton said of his roster depth. “That’s where I think we can get an advantage and where I hope we have an advantage, and that’s kind of the game plan. So far, so good.”

As of press time, the Rangers did not have an opponent scheduled beyond Jan. 2, when they faced Padua. Due to quarantines, SWC contests at Westlake tonight and at Avon on Saturday were both postponed.

Contact this reporter at sports@westlifenews.com or 440-871-5797.

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