July 29, 2014

Elyria
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Girls basketball: Elyria loses top player, then game

MEDINA — Playing a key Northeast Ohio Conference River Division game on the road at league-leading Medina on Wednesday night, Elyria’s girls basketball team could’ve done without any adversity off the court.

Unfortunately the Pioneers were without the services of sophomore Jocelyn Spraggins due to health problems, leaving coach Mike Walsh without his starting point guard hours before the game.

The loss of Spraggins, who according to Walsh was admitted to the hospital overnight to be checked for possible appendicitis, proved to be crucial in Elyria’s 43-33 loss to the Bees.

“That really threw us out of whack,” Walsh said. “We didn’t find out until this morning that we weren’t going to have her, obviously, so that really threw us off and you could tell offensively it took us out of things.”

Without the play of their floor general, who started all 17 games prior to Wednesday, the Pioneers (11-7, 3-5 NOC) went from an offense that averages about 52 points to one that found it tough getting the ball in the basket at critical moments.

With Simone Christian (10 points) running the point, Elyria committed six of its 22 turnovers during an 18-5 run by Medina (14-4, 7-1) in the third quarter, which turned a 19-15 Elyria lead into a 33-24 deficit heading into the fourth.

“You can’t score 33 points and win a basketball game,” said Walsh, whose team shot 13-of-34. “Without our point guard, I understand, but that shouldn’t make that much of a difference. It wasn’t our shooting as much as it was our turnovers. We turned the ball over way too much.

“Too many turnovers at costly times made a good, close game into a 10-point, we’re-chasing-them game and we had to come out of our defense. But that’s why they’re winning the conference and we’re in the middle of the pack.”

The Pioneers made one last effort, cutting the lead to 37-31 with 1:34 left on a 3-pointer by Mary Jones — the junior’s only points thanks to the Bees blanketing her the entire night with counterpart Alexis Smith.

But a missed layup on the next possession gave way to a pair of Medina baskets and two free throws from Sarah Kinch (12 points, seven rebounds) to close out the game and help the Bees claim at least a share of their second straight NOC River Division championship.

Elyria’s failed chances after building a 15-8 second-quarter lead thanks to an 8-0 run — paced primarily by sophomore forward Alexis Middlebrooks (12 points, game-high 10 boards) — came back to haunt the Pioneers.

“We probably had four or five possessions to try and build on it and we didn’t even get shots, we turned it over,” Walsh said. “I don’t know how many turnovers we had, probably more turnovers than shots and the last minute of the third they probably scored eight points, which turned a one-point game into a nine-point game. That pretty much told the story of it.”

Senior forward Bergan Read added seven points, seven boards and three assists in the loss.

A highlight for Elyria was its half-court zone defense that limited Medina’s inside play and held the Bees to perimeter jump shots early, but the loss of Spraggins and an inability to cash in on the Bees early shooting woes hurt the Pioneers.

“I thought our defense gave us a chance, we just turned the ball over way too much tonight,” Walsh said. “Our initial defense was awesome, but the reason it was a one-point game at halftime was because we gave them offensive putbacks.

“I thought we did a good job on one side of the ball tonight and that’s been our strength all the time, but we’ve been scoring and tonight we just didn’t score.”

Contact Dan Brown at sports@medina-gazette.com.