By Amy Rutledge
“We played well in spots,” said Eagles head coach Cheryl Bansek. “I have to tip my hat off to (Eagles junior guard) Haley Reines. She comes in game after game and she gets the toughest assignment. She held their best player (Lacey LeDuc), who just surpassed the 1,000-point mark, to about nine points until the end, when she hit a few free throws.”
After Avon Lake took the lead in the first quarter, the Eagles stepped up their defense, allowing the Shoregals to score only seven points in the second quarter. A foul shot by Michelle Palange put the Eagles within one point and a basket by Tara Kelley allowed the Eagles to capture the lead for the first time. Control of the game went back and forth, but a 3-pointer by Kelley gave the Eagles a four-point lead at the half.
While the Eagles were able to keep within close range of the Shoregals, rebounding and boxing out gave the advantage to Avon Lake in the first half, and prevented the Eagles from executing easy shots.
“You can put yourself in a winning position if you box out,” Bansek stated. “They’re either going to come from the back and foul, or you’re going to get the rebound. We’ve been stressing in practice that they have to make a conscious effort to box out. When you have two teams that are pretty equally matched, all those little things make a difference.
“These are signs of a young team,” she added. “We just tell them every day we have to continue to grow and get better.”
The Eagles have struggled with third-quarter play throughout the season, and this game was no different. After having a two-point lead at the half, Avon Lake came out on an 11-point run to start the second half. A pair of baskets by Mackenzie Lynes and Tara Kelley brought the Eagles within five, but that is as close as they would get.
“Avon Lake did a beautiful job opening up that third quarter,” Bansek said. “They had a nice game plan.
“I have to give them credit,” she added. “We were shadowing toward LeDuc, their best player, to slow her down, and unfortunately (Shoregals sophomore Kim) Zelonis stepped up.”
Leading the Eagles was Megan Branchick with 13 points and Kelley with nine points. Also contributing were Haley Reines with six points, Erika Kiefer with four points, Palange with three points and Lynes with two points.
The Eagles have a current record of 7-10 and are seeded tenth to start the tournament. The Eagles will face back-to-back games with Amherst to transition from regular season into tournaments.
“We open up with Amherst, and we actually end our season with Amherst,” Bansek said. “Anything can happen during tournaments. Our goal is to get to Magnificat. They are the number one seed, and we want a chance at them.”