STRONGSVILLE — Strongsville isn’t exactly a home away from home for Elyria coach Mike Walsh and his Lady Pioneers. Walsh and his squad got a win there four years ago and had dropped three straight — until Wednesday night.
The Pioneers shook off a slow start and came away with a 48-44 Northeast Ohio Conference victory over the Mustangs. The victory moved the Pioneers to 7-0 on the season and 2-0 in the conference.
“We’ve struggled here and we didn’t get off to a good start,” said Walsh. “They came out ready to play and it’s not that we didn’t, we just couldn’t get going. But, we didn’t panic and we just kept plugging away trying to get something going.”
Elyria’s slow start gave Strongsville an opening and the Mustangs capitalized — at least in the first half.
Strongsville (3-5, 0-2 NOC), behind a 12-4 first quarter rebounding advantage, took a 17-10 lead in the second. The Mustangs were able to increase the lead to 23-14 on an Alex Puzzuoli basket with 6:30 to play in the half. Puzzuoli, who led Strongsville with 15 points, scored seven of them in the quarter.
And that’s when Honesty King took control.
King, who led all scorers with 24 points, hit back-to-back buckets to cut the deficit to 23-18 with 5:30 remaining in the half. Ninety seconds later, King’s 3-pointer capped a 12-2 Elyria run and pulled the Pioneers to within 25-24. At that point, the Elyria offense stalled and the Pioneers trailed 30-26 at the intermission.
“We give up 41 points a game and we gave up 30 in the first half,” said Walsh. “And the 26 we scored, we earned every one of them. We just couldn’t get into a rhythm. But we closed the half on a nice run that gave us some momentum and cut into their lead.”
Elyria turned up its defense in the third quarter forcing the Mustangs into six turnovers and holding them to six points on only eight shots. On the offensive end for Elyria it revolved around King and sophomore Brigitte Jones. The duo combined to score 10 of the Pioneers 12 points in the quarter as the Pioneers grabbed the lead. A King basket with :44 left in the quarter gave Elyria a 38-36 advantage and the momentum heading into the final period.
The pair continued its streak as a Jones basket and a pair of King buckets extended the Elyria lead to 44-36 with 5:20 to go. Strongsville cut it to 44-40 with 2:45 remaining but four straight points by Jones sealed the Pioneers victory.
“We talked at halftime about playing better defense in the second half,” said Jones, who finished with 17 points and 12 boards. “They outworked us in the first half on the boards and we knew that we had to play better in the second half. We came out and got things rolling in the third quarter and it carried us.”
Strongsville coach Bill Cash had a game plan to try to stop King but didn’t have any answers for Jones.
“I think they have the best player in the conference in Honesty,” said Strongsville coach Bill Cash. “We know that we can’t stop her but we wanted to try to contain her. Unfortunately, when we stopped her, Jones was able to get at us and hurt us. We’re a young team and Jones took advantage of the mistakes that we made defensively. She’s a good young player.”
Contact Hans Schneider at 329-7135 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Elyria 48, Strongsville 44
ELYRIA (48): Honesty King 9-4-24, Brigitte Jones 6-5-17, Kassandra Messenger 2-0-5, Tess Sito 1-0-2. Totals: 18-9-48.
STRONGSVILLE (44): Alex Puzzuoli 7-1-15, Nicole Puzzuoli 4-0-8, Lauren Wood 3-1-8, Alex Anderson 3-0-6, Kristen Lynn 1-1-3, Sara Henderson 1-0-2, Audrey Smolik 1-0-2. Totals: 20-3-44.
Elyria 10 16 12 10 — 48
Strongsville 17 13 6 8 — 44
Three-point goals: Elyria 3 (King 2, Messenger), Strongsville 1 (Wood). Field goals: Elyria 18-48 (38 percent), Strongsville 20-50 (40 percent). Free throws: Elyria 9-12, Strongsville 3-8. Rebounds: Elyria 29 (Jones 12), Strongsville 31 (A. Puzzuoli 8). Turnovers: Elyria 18, Strongsville 20. Total fouls: Elyria 14, Strongsville 19. Fouled out: None. Junior varsity: Strongsville 53-32.