By Stefanie Kilnapp
For the first time this season, Lakewood had a chance to meet up with Magnificat, but the Blue Streaks did not make it enjoyable as the Rangers fell 59-45.
Both teams played tough defense in the first quarter, and Lakewood’s pressure forced the Blue Streaks to cough up the ball.
“We had more turnovers than I would’ve liked,” Magnificat head coach Megan Hubach commented.
Even tough Lakewood (18-3, 12-1 in the West Shore Conference) forced a lot of turnovers, head coach Mike Harper was not fully satisfied.
“I think our defensive intensity is good in spurts, but I think, at times, we just lose a man here and there, and sometimes we’ll gamble on a double-team or go for a steal that we shouldn’t, and end up giving up an easy layup,” he said. “We got to get better defensively.”
Magnificat (14-6) held an 11-8 lead at the end of the first quarter, but by the end of the first half, the Blue Streaks were up 24-19.
Even though the Blue Streaks are a considerably young team, Harper didn’t expect an easy rally from this team.
“I expected them to be aggressive, poised, and tireless, and they were all of those things,” he said. “Coach Hubach does a good job with her staff, with what they teach those girls and how disciplined they are.”
“For us, I think that we’ve been trying to work on getting better,” Hubach said. “A lot of the kids are learning what it’s like to play at the varsity level.”
After halftime, as the outcome of the game became more present, Lakewood was not going to give up easily.
“I thought we came out in the third quarter and battled,” Harper said. “We tied it up and we battled right through the 20s and somewhere around 30, we had a couple defensive lapses.”
“Our offense stalled and there goes the game, now you’re down 14-15 points and it’s just trying to play catch up.”
Magnificat scored increasingly more baskets as the game progressed going from 11 in the first quarter, to 20 in the last.
“I think because of the strength of our schedule, that’s a big advantage for us,” Hubach said with confidence. “We’re typically prepared and ready to go against anybody.”
Despite the loss, the Rangers plan on proceeding to the postseason with poise. They won the title of the West Shore Conference champions last Wednesday, and are proud of it.
“We are the champions,” Harper said with a smile. “I think we have the toughest district, You got (St. Joseph Academy), Medina and Midpark, and it’s not going to be easy. But you know what? I would be slighting us if I didn’t think we could get out of there. I give us a fighter’s chance.”
“I think that Lakewood played really hard; they’ve won a lot of games,” Hubach said. “We knew that they had quick guards and had good shooters and like to attack the hoop. I think they did a nice job especially in the first half of taking us out of our offensive rhythm.”
As Harper elected not to take the first round bye, Lakewood’s first tournament game will take place Saturday at 2:30 p.m., against Berea, .
Magnificat is certainly not going to relax, as Hubach looks ahead to the postseason, with the first matchup taking place on Feb. 23, versus the winner of the North Olmsted versus Midview game on Saturday.
“With the tournament comes a sense of urgency,” Hubach stated. “You have to play to win, we’re definitely excited to make bit of a run in the tournament and see what can happen.”
“It could be anyone and it’ll be interesting to see how it shakes out.”