By Amy Rutledge
“The girls faced adversity this week and I think a lot of people wondered how they were going to respond to it,” said Pirates head coach Mike Sislowski. “The first quarter, North Ridgeville came out ready to play. They have some good players who can score. I thought it really put us up against the ropes and you really saw the heart of our team out there playing,”
The strength of the Pirates’ defense was able to keep key player for the Rangers, Ashley Montgomery, to a one-point game.
“It started with the defense,” Sislowski said. “The girls were very focused on limiting the number of shots North Ridgeville’s Montgomery got. We know how explosive she can be. We wanted to make sure there was a body near her every place she went and know where she was on the floor. The girls really responded to that. That’s what they built the run on.”
After a close first quarter, the Pirates came out and put the pressure on the Rangers. Back to back baskets by Kessler and Katie Kocher, combined with a six-point run by Hannah McCue, gave the Pirates a 10-point lead at the end of the second quarter.
“She (McCue) had a dynamite game,” Sislowski said. “She’s all around a good player. She really looks to make her teammates better. She knows she’s lucky to have Kessler, McNally and Helleis out there and she really uses them to her advantage. Defensively, she can go inside and out. She’s the whole package.”
The Pirates stepped up their play even more, keeping the Rangers scoreless in the third quarter. A combination of foul shots and baskets by McCue and Kessler in the second half increased the Pirates lead over the Rangers 41-18.
With a 23 point lead going into the fourth quarter, the Pirates kept the pressure on, extending their lead every chance they had. After a basket by the Rangers, the Pirates put up 12 consecutive points, eliminating any chance the Rangers had at coming back. Sislowski said playing hard in the fourth quarter has been a main focus in each game.
“We’re down to three regular season games, and with those three games, we have the opportunity to clinch the West Shore Conference,” he said. “If we want to have the success that we believe we’re going to have, it’s got to be done in the fourth quarter.”
McCue led the Pirates with 18 points. Kessler added 15 points and Maggie Krajcer had nine points. Also contributing were Allyson Helleis with 7 points, Kocher with 4 points and Katie McNally with 2 points.
With the state tournament just around the corner, it’s no surprise the Pirates, now 12-6 overall and 9-1 in the conference, are looking to be a big competitor for the district title.
“We’re hoping to be seeded one or two,” Sislowski stated. “The bottom line is, there’s a lot of great competition. There’s no doubt about it, a district championship is our goal.”