ROCKY RIVER — Having a higher number in the turnover column than the points column for the second half of a basketball game is pretty much a proven method of defeat.
That’s what Elyria had in Saturday’s Medina Division I sectional opener at Rocky River. The Pioneers turned the ball over 18 times while scoring only 16 points and the result was a predictable one as the Pirates won 47-36.
Early on, it looked like Elyria (7-16) might have its way with Rocky River as the Pioneers opened a 20-11 lead midway through the second quarter thanks to the inside scoring of sophomore CiCi McIntosh and junior Sierra White.
McIntosh had nine of her team-high 11 points in the first half and finished with a game-high nine rebounds, as well.
Rocky River (13-8) provided a glimpse of things to come when it went on an 8-0 run over the final 1:03 of the half to cut the score to 20-19. The Pirates steadily built a lead throughout the second half.
“We’ve been a second-half team all season so I wasn’t too concerned when we got down early,” Rocky River coach David Murphy said. “I think we were able to wear them down in the second half by playing hard defense.”
The final blow to Elyria’s hopes came with 5:18 to play in the third quarter when White went up for a rebound and came crashing down on her left shoulder.
She was helped to the locker room and returned at the start of the fourth quarter to join her family in the stands with her left arm in a sling and an ice pack wrapped around the ailing shoulder.
After White left the game the Pioneers made only three baskets the rest of the game, two of which came in the final minute when the game had already been decided.
First-year Elyria coach Brian Arth refused to blame White’s injury for his team’s second-half woes.
“We were up 20-11 and we stopped playing hard and let them go on a run,” he said. “We were supposed to do certain things against their players and we didn’t do it and that’s why we got our butts kicked.
“It’s frustrating knowing we could have beaten a lot of teams we played this season but we just didn’t do it. I don’t know if it’s the playing or the coaching but ultimately I am the head coach so I’ll take the blame.”
The Pioneers finished with 31 turnovers.
Nicole Popovich, a sophomore guard, led the Pirates with a career-high 26 points, 15 coming in a six-minute span from late in the second quarter to the third period.
“The first half I wasn’t doing very well,” Popovich said. “It takes me a couple of shots to get going. I think when I hit the 3-pointers before the half it pumped my entire team up. I wanted to do whatever it would take to help my team win.”
The Pirates travel to Lakewood to take on the Rangers in the sectional final Thursday. Rocky River handed Lakewood one of its two West Shore Conference losses this season.
But first, the Pirates are in the unique position of having one more regular-season game to play. That comes Monday at Elyria Catholic.
“I’ve coached 34 years and I’ve never had another game after tournament started. This is totally unprecedented,” said Murphy, who is in his first year at Rocky River but has also coached at North Royalton, Notre-Dame-Cathedral Latin and St. Edward. “But as my athletic director reminded me, it’s been an unprecedented winter.”
Contact Todd Shapiro at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rocky River 47, Elyria 36
ELYRIA (36): Sybil Roseboro 1-0-2, Shayla Middlebrooks 2-3-7, CiCi McIntosh 5-1-11, Samantha Harjar 2-1-7, Sierra White 2-2-6, Hannah Stewart 1-0-3. Totals 13-7-36.
ROCKY RIVER (47): Sara Connelly 0-1-1, Carolyn Farling 1-0-2, Nicole Popovich 8-7-26, Andrea Chiviles 2-0-4, Mallory Scott 2-0-4, Lucy Grierson 0-2-2, Kara Johanson 3-2-8. Totals 16-12-47.
Elyria 11 9 6 10 — 34
Rocky River 10 9 15 13 — 47
Three-point goals: Elyria (Harjar 2, Stewart), Rocky River (Popovich 3). Field goals: Elyria 13-42 (31 percent), Rocky River 16-40 (40 percent). Free throws: Elyria 7-12 (59 percent), Rocky River 12-21 (58 percent). Rebounds: Elyria 40, Rocky River 20. Turnovers: Elyria 31, Rocky River 14. Total fouls: Elyria19, Rocky River 14.