HENRIETTA TWP. — Winning a basketball game is like riding a bike — once you learn how to do it you never forget.
Even though Firelands only played five games in January and looked rusty for the first three quarters of Thursday’s Patriot Athletic Conference Stars Division game against Keystone, the Falcons soared to the occasion when it mattered as Alyssa Melendez and Brandi Holowecky each connected on 3-pointers in a span of 43 seconds early in the fourth quarter to erase a six-point Wildcats lead and propel Firelands to a 46-40 win.
The Falcons (13-1, 10-0 PAC) outscored Keystone 17-5 in the fourth quarter to secure their 13th straight win.
“We were talking on the bench about how bad we wanted this game and we just kept pushing and fighting until we got it,” said sophomore center Keely Hall, who led the Falcons with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
After Keystone (7-9, 6-6) took a 21-20 lead into halftime, the teams exchanged the lead four times in the third quarter before the Wildcats scored the final six points of the period to build their biggest lead of the game, 35-29.
“I’m really proud of how my girls played tonight,” Keystone coach Scott Terry said. “We did what we had to do to give ourselves an opportunity to win the game. We didn’t defend poorly in the fourth quarter. Firelands just had some experienced girls hit big shots. You’ve got to give them credit. I thought both teams played well.”
The game was almost a mirror image of the first meeting between the teams when Firelands came from behind to win by a nearly identical score of 45-40.
It was another big night for Keystone freshman McKenah Peters. She led all scorers with 18 points — 10 of which came in the third quarter — to go with nine rebounds. Peters came into the game averaging 16 points in Keystone’s first 11 PAC games.
The Wildcats were held scoreless for the final 4:52 of the game after junior guard Madi Bonner hit a 3-pointer to give Keystone a 40-37 lead. Bonner made a living from behind the arc Thursday, hitting three 3-pointers.
Firelands — The Chronicle-Telegram’s top-ranked team — got 11 points from Holowecki and 10 from Cassandra Morrissette. Holowecki was a non-factor in the first three quarters, but hit three of her final four shots to score seven points in the fourth.
Morrissette’s two free throws with 3:20 to play gave the Falcons a 41-40 lead which they didn’t relinquish.
“What a dogfight. It was a great game to watch and a great game to coach,” Firelands coach Dave Kudela said. “It was like a chess match back and forth in the fourth quarter — our girls did the little things it takes to win a close game. At times we were outhustled in the first three quarters and that needed to change for us to get the win. I was pleased to see our girls respond with a well-played fourth quarter.”
Keystone may have one more chance to shoot down the Falcons when the Division II Elyria district tournament draw is announced Sunday.
“We’ve been maturing as a team all season and I think we have a chance to win out the rest of the regular-season games,” Terry said. “That would double our win total from last year and put us in a good position come tournament time.”
Contact Todd Shapiro at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Firelands 46, Keystone 40
KEYSTONE (40): Madi Bonner 4-0-11, Morgan Myers 0-1-1, Darcy Irish 4-1-9, Jillian Peters 0-1-1, McKenah Peters 7-2-18. Totals 15-5-40.
FIRELANDS (46): Cassandra Morrissette 4-2-10, Alyssa Melendez 1-1-4, Brandi Holowecky 5-0-11, Haleigh Bari 0-3-3, Heather Smyth 3-0-6, Keely Hall 5-2-12. Totals 18-4-46.
Keystone 12 9 14 5 — 40
Firelands 10 10 9 17 — 46
Three-point goals: Keystone (Bonner 3, M. Peters 2), Firelands (Holowecky, Melendez). Field goals: Keystone 15-44 (34 percent), Firelands 18-57 (32 percent). Free throws: Keystone 5-12 (42 percent), Firelands 8-14 (57 percent). Rebounds: Keystone 36, Firelands 46. Turnovers: Keystone 20, Firelands 27. Total fouls: Keystone 15, Firelands 18.