ELYRIA — There’s no practical way to find out, but Avon Lake might be the best 0-7 basketball team in North America.
The Shoregals did more than merely take on unbeaten Amherst on Saturday afternoon. They took the Comets down to the wire before falling 42-37 in what nearly became the Southwestern Conference stunner of the season.
But with Sydney Failing making eight of 12 foul shots in the fourth quarter and her senior teammates — Morgan Dziak and Brianna Shagovac — each going 2-for-2 from the foul line, Amherst (5-0, 4-0 SWC) managed to pull it out.
Even in the last 1:30, the Shoregals (0-7, 0-4) trailed just 38-36 after baskets by senior Anelise Kollias and sophomore Kay Butrey 20 seconds apart. But two free throws apiece by Failing and Dziak in the final minute created the final score.
Free-throw shooting turned it around for the Comets. After trailing for nine minutes from the second quarter until a minute remained in the third, they finally managed a tie at 26 on sophomore Brooke Wallace’s foul shot.
Amherst trailed for the last time, 30-29, after Shoregals senior Molly Disbrow scored with six minutes to play. The Comets went ahead for good when Failing hit two foul shots with 4:55 to go. It was the start of five straight free throws for Failing, who made seven of her last nine. For the game, Amherst made 20 of 29 from the line.
“We knew we were the better team and that we had to come out and pull ourselves together as a team,” Failing said. “That’s why we pulled out a win. All six seniors had to show our leadership and keep calm.”
Of her clutch foul shooting, Failing said: “We shoot foul shots a lot in practice. (Coach John Rositano) makes us shoot two free throws in game situations, like we’re up by three points with 59 seconds to go. So that’s when I shot, it felt just like practice.”
Rositano wasn’t pleased with the team’s performance, but he was also philosophical.
“A game like this happens when you take the floor thinking you’re better than somebody and you aren’t,” Rositano said. “We took the court thinking we’re better than Avon Lake and you find out they have pride and good, tough kids and they played a really good game.
“We weren’t ready to play. I give Avon Lake credit. They took it to us and they didn’t back down from us. They came ready to play.”
It didn’t help that the Shoregals shot only eight free throws for the game and made only three. And they connected on just eight of 36 field-goal attempts the second half after making eight of 18 the first 16 minutes.
Nor was it an asset when two starters — senior Molly Disbrow and junior Emily Nicholas — fouled out in the fourth quarter. At the time Nicholas left the floor with just under a minute to play, Avon Lake trailed by two points, and she and Disbrow had scored 14 of the team’s 36 points.
“(Amherst) finished it when they should have finished it, and that’s what you expect from seniors,” Shoregals coach Dave Zvara said. “But our effort was there today. The girls did a great job. A couple shots didn’t go in there at the end, but with a couple minutes left we still had a chance.
“We got out of position a couple time. That made us foul them and put them on the foul line.
Contact Bob Daniels at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Amherst 42, Avon Lake 37
AMHERST (42): Hannah Brosky 0-0-0, Morgan Dziak 1-4-7, Brianna Shagovac 3-2-8, Taylor Gibson 0-0-0, Mallory Sliman 1-0-2, Sydney Failing 3-10-17, Megan Salisbury 0-0-0, Brooke Wallace 2-4-8. Totals 10-20-42.
AVON LAKE (37): Ali Balthaser 3-0-6, Kay Butrey 2-0-5, Anelise Kollias 3-0-6, Logan LeDuc 1-0-3, Marisa Gerrone 0-0-0, Maggie Heschel 1-0-2, Molly Disbrow 2-2-6, Emily Nicholas 4-0-8, Bridget McCoy 0-1-1. Totals 16-3-37.
Amherst 10 3 15 14 — 42
Avon Lake 6 13 9 11 — 37
Three-point goals: Amherst 2-8 (Dziak, Failing); Avon Lake 2-5 (LeDuc, Butrey). Field goals: Amherst 10-47 (21.3 percent); Avon Lake 16-54 (29.6 percent). Free throws: Amherst 20-29; Avon Lake 3-8. Rebounds: Amherst 42; Avon Lake 37. Turnovers: Amherst 20; Avon Lake 22. Fouled out: Disbrow, Nicholas.
Junior varsity: Amherst, 33-18.