By Amy Rutledge
In an intense matchup in the Northeast Ohio Conference, the strength of the Lady Rangers was enough to beat the Elyria Pioneers 41-34.
“I told the girls that I’ve been waiting for them to win a game against a good team, especially when the chips were down a little bit and they came back and made a run on us,” said head coach Michael Gallagher. “We didn’t fold up at all. We played better, we played harder and smarter. We stepped forward tonight, and that’s a good step for our program. I’m real proud of that.”
The win improved the Rangers’ record to 5-5 for the season.
“In our five losses we know we could have won those,” Gallagher said. “That’s what I’ve been talking to the girls about. We’re good enough to be in the games, but are we good enough to win against a good team, and tonight we did that.”
The Rangers started the game with an 11-0 lead before allowing the Pioneers to score. Despite the Pioneers taking the lead during the third quarter, the Rangers finished each quarter with control of the board.
“I thought our defensive effort and our matchup zone was really good,” Gallagher added. “We blocked out real well. We didn’t give them very many second opportunities. We handled the ball under pressure good for as young as we are. At the end of the ball game we had a freshman and two sophomores handling the ball, and they stepped forward.”
Lakewood shot 13 for 25 at the free throw line.
“We need to shoot free throws better,” Gallagher said. “Our goal is 60 percent, and we talk about that after every ball game. We are a ton better than we were in June. At this point we have met our goal, but we still have that goal of getting better every day.”
Senior Jessica Garcia led the team with 12 points, followed by freshman Mikayla Harper with nine points.
“There’s no question that she’s (Garcia) the leader and the one the girls look to,” Gallagher said. “She’s the four-year varsity starter. When the going gets tough, she’s the one who’s going to step forward and get that defensive board for us.”
Emotions ran high in the third quarter as the Pioneers pushed back against the Rangers, eventually taking the lead. Elyria head coach Mike Walsh was thrown out of the game by the referee after arguing a foul call made against Elyria.
“I was just trying to tell them to maintain their cool,” Gallagher said. “Don’t play not to lose, but play to win. They got more aggressive. Be strong with the basketball. Maintain your poise. If they foul, you have to maintain your poise, you can’t slam the ball down or throw it to an official. During some of those foul shots there’s nobody standing there, and all the pressure in the world is on them and they knocked down four of them.”