Tiger girls rout East in playoff opener

by Steve Batko | Correspondent Published:

The Twinsburg girls basketball team brought their lunch pails to the first game of the first round of the Akron Ellet division I sectional tournament.

Ohio's top-ranked Division I team used a workmanlike approach in the Feb. 16 tourney opener as the top-seeded Tigers drilled Youngstown East (7-15) by a score of 79-28.

Thanks to brilliant guard play and superb team defense, Twinsburg (23-0) was never challenged. Last winter, the Tigers beat East by 64 points in a sectional final at Ellet.

As head coach Julie Solis emptied her bench early and often in the win, Twinsburg moves on to play in a Feb. 21 sectional final at Ellet against Warren Harding at 6 p.m. The winner plays in a district semifinal at Ellet on Feb. 28 at 5:45 p.m.

Harding, 4-18 overall, has solid athleticism, but is one of the youngest teams in the Ellet field.

"We just need to remain as focused as we can for each game," said Solis.

The Raiders are led by 6-foot junior center Maya Bell, who takes up a lot of space in the paint. Bell averages 7.6 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 1.3 steals a game.

As for the opener and the likelihood of a lop-sided sectional final win, Solis isn't taking anything for granted as the two-time state champion Tigers were all business in Akron.

"I thought our girls had a very business-like approach and we just need to be focused," said Solis, who had four athletes making their first-ever post season start.

"I believe that these girls (including four new starters) have proved themselves this season and we just need to keep working."

Twinsburg gave East an early knock-out punch and led 52-9 at the half. The Lady Tigers were executing on offense, running in transition, and creating havoc on defense.

Senior guard Ashley Morrissette, the lone starter from last year's state title team, led a balanced Twinsburg attack.

Morrissette sizzled with 17 points on 7-of-11 shooting and was 3-of-4 from the 3-point arc. She had five rebounds, dished out four assists, had three steals, and blocked two shots.

Another senior guard, Brooke Smith, continues to be outstanding on both ends. Using her blazing quickness, Smith had team highs of six thefts and six assists to go with 16 points. She also buried two treys and had zero turnovers.

Veteran senior center Char-dell Dunnigan had a double-double with 10 points and 11 boards. Dunnigan had two steals and two blocks.

Junior guard Baleigh Reid was steady again with 13 points (6-10 shooting), four boards, three steals, two assists, and a block.

Senior post Mercedes Hobbs added six points and three assists while junior post Marisa Howard had six points and six rebounds.

Sophomores Jaime Sanborn and Aloneet Durden also shined.

Sanborn, a 6-foot forward, had two points, two steals and grabbed a career-high eight rebounds.

Durden had a superb floor game with a career-high six assists, five points, and four steals, plus a 3-pointer.

Also contributing were sophomores Megan Brown (two points), Emily Caplice (two points), and Brianna Williams, along with senior Arion Roseboro and junior Tranae Conard (two steals).

On Feb. 13, Twinsburg captured its third straight Northeast Ohio Conference Valley Division title and its sixth consecutive title overall after a 65-24 win over Shaker Heights (2-20).

Morrissette, who is headed to Purdue University, poured in 20 to lead the way. Smith, who will play at Cleveland State, netted 13 points. Reid scored eight points.

Roseboro, a first-year varsity athlete, recorded career highs of six points and two 3-pointers.

Dunnigan, who will play at George Mason, had six points and nine rebounds. Hobbs scored five points, Sanborn had four, Brown two, and Howard added a free throw.

In other first round action at Ellet, Boardman (10-13) upset third-seeded Austintown Fitch (17-6) 52-42 on the lower end of Twinsburg's bracket.

The winner of Boardman/Aurora (14-7) will likely play Twinsburg in an Ellet district semifinal on Feb. 28 at 5:45 p.m.

Email: mleonard@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9442

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