There are technical masterpieces, and then there are games like the one played between the Bay and Rocky River girls basketball teams Jan. 6.
Both teams struggled to score all evening, both ran into second-half foul trouble and to top it off, they combined for 32 turnovers.
If there was one major positive to come out of such a grind-it-out affair, though, it was that both teams did enough defensively to pull out a win. By holding the Rockets scoreless over the game’s final 3:35, the Pirates gained a slight edge and, ultimately, a 33-28 home victory, upping their undefeated record to 6-0 (5-0 Great Lakes Conference).
“We kept telling the girls, you’ve got to fight,” Pirates coach Elaine Robinson said. “Down the stretch we were diving on some loose balls, we were getting some rebounds that were really important, and that just helped us get some momentum that got us back into our groove. The ability to switch up our defense, switch up matchups, things like that, that’s what helps keep us diverse and make them react.”
Maria Potts and Kelsey Murphy each scored eight points to lead the Pirates, though the team shot 23% from the field as a unit. Held to just three points in the fourth quarter by the equally-determined Rockets (4-4, 3-3 GLC), they got a key free throw from Julia Potts in a one-and-one scenario with 2:10 left for a 31-28 lead, then Sophia Murray sent a pinpoint pass to Maria Potts in transition that she laid in with just over a minute remaining to provide the winning margin.
“It was a low-scoring game, not the prettiest of games, but in the end these kids found a way to win,” Robinson said. “That speaks to the leadership we have, and our experience.”
The Rockets, who scored the first six points of the fourth quarter to cut an eight-point deficit to 30-28, entered the bonus with 4:51 remaining thanks to a rash of second half fouls called on the Pirates. Collectively, they shot 1-for-9 free throws and were unable to capitalize.
For the game, the Rockets shot 2-17 from the line, and made just 11 of 50 shot attempts from the field.
Senior forward Chaeli Ziebarth led the team with seven points, eight rebounds and three blocks on a tough shooting night for everyone involved. In addition to the free throw misses, the Rockets also got several clean looks at 3-point shots down the stretch that could’ve tied the score or given them the lead, but clanged off the rim.
“We have a young team, and I think we didn’t know what (shots) we wanted at the end,” Rockets coach John Curran said. “We (coaches) know what we want, but that’s part of the growing process. It was a winnable game and we expected to win. We didn’t execute at the end and it’s something we can get better at...We left some points out there.”
The Pirates led for most of the game by a slim margin, closing the first quarter up 8-6 and the first half 18-12. A Taylor Spies 3-pointer early in the third quarter gave them their biggest lead of the night, 21-12, before the Rockets started to come back. Late baskets by Julia and Maria Potts made it 30-22 heading into the tightly-contested fourth quarter.
Both teams applied waves of defensive pressure and found success, though the Pirates’ constant movement and active hands led to 16 steals and a host of deflections and jump balls that caused the Rockets to scuffle at times in running their plays.
“We have to give credit to Bay, because they’re a great outside shooting team,” Robinson said. “We emphasized having hot hands on closeouts and with our press, we made sure to have active hands because any deflection, even if we don’t get the ball, that makes the other team panic a little.”
Murphy and Julia Potts led the Pirates with seven rebounds apiece. Murray and Ava Patti put up identical stat lines of two points, five rebounds, four assists and five steals.
The Pirates will host Buckeye tonight at 7, then head to Elyria Catcholic on Saturday for a 2 p.m. start. The Rockets will play Valley Forge at home tonight at 7, then travel to Lakewood Saturday for a 2 p.m. contest.
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