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Tiger girls down Comets, Blazers

by Steve Batko | Correspondent Published: February 7, 2013 12:00 AM

Even by the standard of a two-time defending state champion, last week was a huge week for Twinsburg girls basketball.

Here's how it went:

On Jan. 29, the Lady Tigers dented the USA Today's Super 25 National rankings as the 24th ranked team in the country.

One day later, Twinsburg faced the last Ohio team to beat Twinsburg in the regular season in Shaker Heights Hathaway Brown. The Blazers have won four straight Division II state titles.

Facing the state-ranked Blazers (14-5) on their own court, Twinsburg won 46-38.

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Then on Jan. 31, Twinsburg senior guard Ashley Morrissette was nominated to the 2013 McDonald's All American Games.

Morrissette became the second Tiger in as many years to be nominated for the coveted event as Maryland freshman Malina Howard did so last year.

On Feb. 2, head coach Julie Solis and the Tigers (19-0) had to travel to arch rival Solon and survived with a 54-48 victory.

Twinsburg sits a top the Northeast Ohio Conference Valley Division over state-ranked teams from Hudson (eighth in Ohio) and Solon (10th).

The second win this winter over the Comets pushed Twinsburg to 7-0 in the league, prior to the Feb. 6 game at Stow-Munroe Falls (14-5, 3-4). Results from the Stow game weren't available at press time.

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Red-hot Hudson (17-2) will travel to Twinsburg on Feb. 9 and has won 12 straight games. This will be for the league championship as the Tigers are expected to win the Feb. 13 home tilt against Shaker Heights (2-13, 0-7).

The week ended Feb. 3 when Twinsburg was named the top seed at the 12-team Akron Ellet Division I district tournament seed drawing.

Solis doesn't pay attention to the rankings, but she did have some thoughts on her squad after the huge road wins at Hathaway Brown and at Solon (14-4 overall and 4-3 in the NOC).

Solon was the team to put the scare to the Tigers. The Comets led by as many as eight points in the first half and then had the game tied 48-48 with 2:51 left before Twinsburg closed with a 6-0 run to win.

"They [Solon] really shot the ball well the entire game and they made it tough on us," said Solis, a former Solon coach. "We capitalized at the end and we knew the threes (3-point shooting) was Solons game, but I think our post players need to show more of a physical presence. We need to keep working."

Twinsburg forced 19 Solon turnovers while only committing three turnovers in the entire second half and 10 overall.

Morrissette showed why she is headed to Purdue as she had two steals and strips in the backcourt against Solon standout guard Kristen Confroy. Those two consecutive swipes and layups gave Twinsburg a 38-37 lead into the fourth quarter.

Forging a 6-point lead, the Tigers saw Solon go on a 6-0 spurt and when Comet guard Natalia Kontul buried a 3-pointer with 2:51 left, it was tied 48-48.

Solon had a chance to gain the lead again, but missed on two 3-point shots by Jordan Bekelja and Confroy.

Tiger senior post Char-dell Dunnigan missed a shot in the paint for a chance to gain the lead, but Morrissette canned two free throws to make it 50-48 with 2:00 left.

After Confroy was called for an offensive foul, Solis then used her 3-guard set to burn the clock. Morrissette was fouled with 33.68 seconds left and calmly sank both shots to make it 52-48.

Twinsburg applied full court pressure as Solon's Confroy missed a 3-point shot and Morrissette grabbed the board.

Morrissette made two free throws to seal the win with 11.90 ticks left. She ended with 24 points, six rebounds, and six steals, but was held to a season-low one assist.

"We knew we would see (Solon's) 1-3-1 defense and we knew they could shoot," said Solis.

Junior Baleigh Reid had a solid game with 13 points, four boards and two thefts while senior Brooke Smith added seven points and two feeds. Dunnigan had two points, four rebounds and three steals while senior Mercedes Hobbs added a hoop.

The Tigers couldn't stop Martha Thompson in the first half as she exploded for 15 points. Thompson, who is headed to Xavier University, had 22 points and six boards. Confroy had 12 points, five assists, four boards and two thefts.

Solis started sophomore wing Aloneet Durden to start the second half and she responded.

Durden hit a clutch 3-pointer in the third period and had four boards, two assists, and a steal in the second half.

"Alo seems to always come up with a big shot," said her coach. "I was pleased with how she played in the second half."

In the win at Hathaway Brown, Morrissette ended up with 24 points, including 18 in the second half and 11 in the final stanza.

The Blazers were without 6-foot-4 center Stephanie Poland (wrist), but the Tigers outscored the hosts 16-5 in the second period as Reid scored eight of her 12 points in the period.

Hathaway Brown cut the lead to 23-19 early in the third, but Morrissette hit a 3-pointer and a short jumper, plus fed Smith on a 3-point bomb. The Tiger lead spread to 12.

Vanessa Smith led the Blazers with 17 points and Nia Marshall had 11, but Twinsburg forced 21 turnovers with its defensive pressure.

Email: mleonard@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9442

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