Rockets bring down Reserve

GREENFORD – Lowellville endured a physical battle with Western Reserve, but emerged with a 47-35 victory in the second round of Division IV sectional play at South Range High School on Thursday night.

“That was the first bloody nose I’ve ever gotten,” Lowellville senior Kaye Solak said. “We were expecting them to be physical because they’re a big and strong team. We knew we had to be physical back.”

Solak netted 15 points and pulled down eight rebounds to help lead the Lowellville while Rachel Durbin added 13 points. Madison Opritza also recorded double-figures with 12 points. Lowellville will meet Crestview on Wednesday in a district semifinal.

“We were expecting it to be a closer game than last two times we played them,” Solak said. “They have really good coaches so we expected them to come out hard and that’s what they did.”

The Rockets (21-3) used a quick start to jump out to an 11-2 lead after the first quarter. Western Reserve’s Rachel Maslach netted the Blue Devils (9-14) only points of the frame on a basket just over two minutes into the game.

Maslach finished with six points on the night.

The basket by Maslach was the last time the Blue Devils lit the scoreboard until Bethany Burger converted a free-throw attempt 1 minute and 16 seconds into the second.

Durbin and Solak each chipped in four of their totals to help boost the offense in the opening frame for the Rockets.

“I’m a little disappointed in the offensive end of it. I thought we fought ourselves more than we did on defense. We were forcing passes and not being patient,” Lowellville coach Tony Matisi said. “We had the best practice week we’ve had in a long time. I’m very happy with defensive effort, I thought we put a lot of pressure on ourselves offensively.”

Lowellville managed just five points in the second quarter, and shot just 50 percent from the free-throw line all evening. However, the Rockets were able to limit the Blue Devils from making a run by holding them to just six points in the frame.

“Our defense has been the best it’s been all year, but our offense definitely needs some work,” Solak said. “We are just rushing everything and I think we’re just nervous before games and every time we go to run an offensive play, we’re throwing the ball around. We just need to calm down a little bit and we will be okay.”

Linley Mamonis poured in 13 points to led the Blue Devils. Mamonis was not in uniform in the Blue Devils’ previous two meetings with the Rockets, and her presence inside was part of Lowellville’s preparation heading in to Wednesday night’s game.

“She just gives them a totally dynamic to the game with her presence inside, she hurt us last year,” Matisi said. “She was big and strong and she came back a couple games ago and we knew she would be a presence inside.”

The Rockets picked up the tempo in the third and started taking advantage of the Blue Devils by running the floor – precisely what Western Reserve and coach Josh Scott wanted to avoid.

“They got us playing their pace, and we said at the beginning that we don’t want to be running up and down the floor,” Scott said. “In that third quarter, we started running and letting things get away from us. We told them if we don’t rebound, get back on defense and turn the ball over, we are going to be in trouble.”

Despite the Blue Devils hanging tough with the Rockets as the final frame unfolded, Western Reserve was unable to fully recover from the hole they had dug themselves in.

“I’m thrilled because you’re talking about a team that beat us by over 70 points in two meetings before,” Scott said. “We had a good game plan but I think we just had a few miscues and kind of let it get away from us. Other than that, I thought we played well, we just didn’t execute down the stretch.”