By Lisa Byers
CAMBRIDGE SPRINGS —
Cambridge Springs didn’t know what to expect of its Region 3 opener against Conneaut on Thursday night. But with three wins — two against Class AAA teams — the Lady Devils had no reason not to be optimistic.
Turns out the Eagles are on a whole different level.
“That is the best team we have seen by far,” Cambridge Springs head coach Rick Grubbs said.
Conneaut forced 42 turnovers and had three players score in double figures as it rolled over the Lady Blue Devils 58-29 at the Devils Den.
The win was a program first for the Eagles, who improved to 1-2 overall and 1-0 in Region 3. Cambridge Springs fell to 3-1 overall and 0-1 in the region.
“Player for player, they are strong,” Grubbs said. “We just have to hope that everyone else in the region loses to them too.”
It is early, but the Eagles did make a statement against the Blue Devils, who were among the preseason favorites in Region 3, according to several coaches.
Cambridge Springs did jump out in front first on a putback by Paige Wolfrom just 30 seconds into the game. Conneaut answered with an easy layup by Lindsey Shidemantle off an inbounds pass to tie the game at 2-2 with 7:17 to play in the first quarter.
That is where the score remained until Shidemantle’s free throw with 3:51 left. The free throw ignited a 10-0 run by the Eagles that helped give them a 12-5 lead after a quarter of play.
“I thought we played really well in our tip-off tournament,” Conneaut coach Bill Stevenson said. “We didn’t get a win, but I thought we played really well. Now putting it together on the road again against a very physical Cambridge team … I’m very happy.”
Conneaut did start the season with losses to Beaver Falls and Mars at the Beaver Falls Tip-off Tournament. Those losses, though, were by an average of 10.5 points. Beaver Falls is a returning state qualifier at Class AA.
And both of those losses were without Kristen Baker. Baker made her season debut against the Blue Devils and made an immediate impact for the Eagles. She scored a game-high 15 points and also added seven rebounds, three assists and four steals.
She was one of four players with at least three steals for the Eagles, whose swarming defense rattled a young Blue Devil squad.
“Our inexperience showed,” Grubbs said. “I don’t think we were quite ready for what we saw (last night).”
Joining Baker in double figures for the Eagles was Shidemantle, who finished with 14 points to go along with three steals. Challen Litwiler added 10 points, eight rebounds, four assists, six steals and two blocks. Kimmy Litwin had seven points and eight assists. Jenn Krider had three steals.
“All you have to do is concentrate and know the ball is going to get there,” Shidemantle said of the Eagles’ balanced offensive attack. “You have to trust that your teammates are going to help you out and so forth.”
Brianna Babb and McKayla Zilhaver led the Blue Devils with six points each. Four freshman saw varsity time for Cambridge Springs, including starting point guard Taylor Babb. Babb was hit with her fourth foul midway through the third quarter.
Nicole Dalbec, another Cambridge starter, did not play due to illness.