AMHERST — The theme of Monday’s non-conference girls basketball game between Firelands and Amherst could have been: Expect the unexpected.
Or maybe: Defense and free throws win ball games.
The Falcons surprised Amherst with a zone defense then put the Comets away at the foul line on their way to a 41-30 upset victory.
Brandi Holowecky scored 11 of her game-high 16 points in the second half when she was 7-of-8 from the free throw line.
The free throw line proved to be a difference-maker in the game as Firelands was 19-of-26 (73 percent) shooting from the line, while Amherst missed 12 free throws, going 7-of-19 (37 percent).
“Typically we are a man defense team, that’s all we did Friday night when they were out scouting us, but we’ve been working on our zone in practice and tonight I told the girls, ‘I wanna try this and see how it works,’” said acting Firelands coach Paul Nixon, who was replacing veteran Falcons coach Dave Kudela, who was away from the team tending to a family emergency.
Firelands (1-1) played the zone almost to perfection, cutting off the passing lanes to Amherst star post Brooke Wallace and forcing the Comets guards to take quick off-balance jump shots.
Wallace still managed to have a big impact on the game, finishing with a double-double — 12 points and 17 rebounds — but overall the Comets shot just 23 percent from the field as a team.
“Firelands came in with a great game plan,” Amherst coach Kevin Collins said. “They knew what we wanted to do and they wanted to take that away … and they did. We needed some outside shots and free throws to go, and they didn’t go down tonight.”
Amherst (0-1) lost its first game under Collins, but the first-year coach said his team will learn from the defeat.
“Our goal is to get better every day,” Collins said. “Tonight was a big learning lesson for us, we see we still have some work to do but we have a bunch of girls who we are going to work their butts off to make a positive out of this game.”
The Falcons scored the final eight points of the second quarter to take a 26-17 halftime lead and never led by less than seven at any point in the second half.
“I’m really proud of my teammates — this was a huge win for us,” Holowecky, a 5-foot-7 junior guard, said. “We kept attacking the rim and all the work we put in on free throws paid off today.”
Morrissette scored all of her points in the first half but played a big role in the Falcons defense that held Amherst to 13 second-half points.
“We played well as a team tonight,” Morrissette said. “Everyone was using their teammates on the court to stay out of trouble. We pushed the ball well and executed our game plan on defense.”
Morrissette also had 10 rebounds, three steals and a blocked shot in the win.
“We’ve never played Amherst before and honestly we were a little stressed out before the game thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s Amherst,’” Morrissette said. “At the tip-off we looked at Brooke and it was like, yeah, she’s a big girl and she’s going to hurt us, but we kept our heads up, got into our 3-2 zone and shut them down.”
Contact Todd Shapiro at 329-7135 or email@example.com.
Firelands 41, Amherst 30
FIRELANDS (41): Cassie Morrissette 1-5-7, Alyssa Melendez 1-6-8, Rebecca Myers 1-0-2, Kaitlyn Michener 0-0-0, Brandi Holowecky 4-8-16, Haleigh Bari 1-0-2, Victoria Grasso 0-0-0, Keely Hal 3-0-6. Totals 11-19-41.
AMHERST (30): Sher Champe 1-2-4, Brianna Crapo 1-0-2, Olivia Henderson 0-0-0, Zoe Papay 0-0-0, Mallory Sliman 3-0-6, Gabrielle Basinski 0-1-1, Sara Elliott 2-0-5, Sydney Clark 0-0-0, Brooke Wallace 4-4-12, Natalia Joseph 0-0-0. Totals 11-7-30.
Firelands 10 16 9 6 — 41
Amherst 13 4 7 6 — 30
Three-point goals: Amherst (Elliott). Field goals: Firelands 11-40 (28 percent), Amherst 11-48 (23 percent). Free throws: Firelands 19-26 (73 percent), Amherst 7-19 (37 percent). Rebounds: Firelands 36, Amherst 39. Turnovers: Firelands 14, Amherst 17. Total fouls: Firelands 13, Amherst 19.