In recent games, Bay girls basketball coach John Curran thought his team was missing a mean streak and called for more toughness last Saturday when it hosted arch-rival Rocky River.

With the exception of a fourth-quarter surge by the Pirates, the Rockets accomplished their mission of being the aggressor, jumping out to a 20-point lead before winning the key Great Lakes Conference game, 49-41.

It was the Rockets’ seventh victory in their past eight games and their fifth in a row over the Pirates, dating back to the 2017-18 season. At 12-2 in GLC play (15-4 overall), Bay was able to maintain a slim lead on Rocky River (15-4, 10-3 GLC) for second place with just over a week left in the regular season.

“I thought we played really hard, and I thought we played tough,” Curran said. “I thought we got a little out-toughed (recently). We were determined not to be out-toughed today.”

Senior forward Haley Andrejcak led the Rockets with 15 points, seven rebounds, three steals and two blocks. Guards Audrey Hyland (12 points) and Barb Aldridge (10 points) joined her in double figures, while forward Chaeli Ziebarth scored eight and grabbed a team-high 11 rebounds.

Playing their usual brand of full-court pressure mixed with a half-court zone, the Rockets swiped 17 steals and forced 22 Pirate turnovers, diving for every loose ball and trapping ball-handlers whenever possible. It mostly worked, as the Pirates shot 31% from the field before having their seven-game win streak snapped.

“(Rocky River) is one of the toughest games we have,” Andrejcak said. “We usually have trouble getting on the floor and getting every ball but, for some reason, today in the locker room, we were saying this is a game where we’re going to put in 110% of effort and go for everything. We put everything into our defense and it worked for us.”

In addition to tough defense, a big difference for Bay was its ability to close quarters out with long runs, something that had been eluding it for much of the season. A 10-0 run at the end of the first gave the Rockets an 18-10 lead and, after the Pirates tied the game at 18 midway through the second, they answered with a 13-1 run to go up 30-19 at halftime.

A 12-0 run in the third gave them a 42-23 lead and a Hyland 3-pointer early in the fourth made it 47-27 before the Pirates suddenly came alive.

In the game’s final five minutes, the Pirates used a 14-2 run to pull within eight before running out of time. While making up 12 points on the scoreboard, they forced six Rocket turnovers and made them pay in transition. Junior guard Maria Potts scored a team-high 18 points, eight coming during that late run. Her eight rebounds, three assists and four steals helped give her team life.

“Our sense of urgency (picked up),” Pirates coach Elaine Robinson said. “We have kids who understand the game and are really competitive, and the desire’s inside of them. I think it was just a little bit of, it got ugly, we got down at times but we can do this. We believe in ourselves, and we got aggressive.”

Potts was the only player to reach double figures for the Pirates but sophomore post Kelsey Murphy was a force inside, scoring nine points, a game-high 18 rebounds and two blocks.

As well as the Rockets played before the Pirates’ surge, Andrejcak felt her team let its intensity slip.

“I think we just kind of realized that our lead was large, and I think we just took our foot off the gas pedal,” she said. “And I think we needed to keep going, but we thought with having a big lead with one quarter to go we could just kind of calm down, but we shouldn’t have.”

Bay will play host to Walsh Jesuit tonight at 7 p.m. in a non-league contest, while Rocky River will travel to GLC-leading Elyria Catholic (18-1, 13-0 GLC) for a 7 p.m. tip-off.

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