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January 20, 2013

GIRLS BASKETBALL: Eagles win battle of birds with Cardinals

January 20, 2013 7:00 a.m. COCHRANTON — There have been a handful of occasions this season where the chips have been down for Conneaut girls basketball team. However, for the most part, head coach Bill Stevenson has been pleased with how his players have handled it.

Another example of this came Saturday night as the Lady Eagles took on Cochranton. The host Cardinals played an outstanding first half, and kept it a tight game into the fourth.

Yet, once again Conneaut’s composure pulled the team through as the Eagles won a big Region 3 battle, 55-50.

“(Cochranton) is a quality ball club,” said Stevenson. “And I’m proud of my kids, because you could either rise to the challenge or you can crumble under the pressure. We got slapped around in the first half. But we were resilient. You never want to see your team with its back against the wall. But when it happens, it’s nice to see then step up.”

With the win, Conneaut improved to 12-2 overall and 6-0 in Region 3. Cochranton dropped to 9-5 overall and 4-2 in the region, placing the Cardinals in a tie for second with Saegertown (7-5, 4-2). The Panthers and the Cardinals meet on Tuesday.

“We had them on the ropes and then we let them come back on us,” said Cochranton head coach Gary Egli. “We just handed them a couple. I don’t know if it’s because we panicked or we let up a little. Other than that, they hit some tough shots. Theirs bounced in, ours bounced out. (It was) one of them games. One less turnover or one different shot, it’s a different ball game. Both teams played their tails off, that’s all I know.”

Cochranton showcased a nice team-wide effort on offense early in the game as six different players knocked down a bucket in the first quarter, which the Cards won 16-14. Kassidy Dickson and Kendall Dickson both hit 3-pointers in the period.

They kept it up in the second period, winning it 12-10 to take a 28-24 lead into halftime. Kassidy Dickson led the team with seven points in the first half. Madison Bernarding had six and Kendall Dickson five.

“I don’t know how well we played in the first half, but they outplayed us,” said Stevenson. “We might have played okay. But they played outstanding. Every shot they shot, not only was it open, but they hit it. So we didn’t do a real good job there. They made us pay for every mistake we made in the first half.”

The path forward for Conneaut was clear.

“They weren’t missing,” said Eagles junior Kristen Baker. “Everything they were shooting was going in. So in the second half we came out and we knew we had to put a hand in their face and stop them from shooting.”

It took a couple minutes for that plan to be implemented. Cochranton opened the third quarter with a 6-2 run, taking its biggest lead of the game at 34-26.

Then, however, the Eagles showed their claws. Starting with a Kimmy Litwin 3, Conneaut went on a three-minute scoring run that netted 15 unanswered points. Challen Litwiler scored six during the run, doing a lot of hard work in the paint. Baker had four. Litwin had her 3. And Jenn Krider had a key defensive steal that she turned into a three-point play at the other end.

By the time the Eagles were done, they went from an eight-point deficit to a 41-34 lead.

“We picked up the intensity and just played much better in the third quarter,” said Stevenson. “We forced some turnovers and made some shots of our own.”

Cochranton wouldn’t be disposed of so easily, though. In the fourth quarter, trailing 44-38, the Cardinals went on a 10-2 run, taking a 48-46 lead on a layup by Morghan Egli.

However, Conneaut answered with a seven-point run of its own, capped off by Krider’s clutch 3-point bucket with 1:05 remaining that made it 53-48 Eagles.

Cochranton’s Abby Clulow made scored on a short-hopper in the paint to bring it back to a one-possession game.

But down at the other end, Baker, getting an extra pass from Libby Clement, banked in an open lay-in to seal up the win.

Litwiler ended the night with 23 points and seven rebounds for the Eagles. Baker followed with 18 points and seven boards. Krider had eight points. And Litwin handed out eight assists.

For Cochranton, Clulow had an outstanding night, posting 16 points, 12 of which came in the second half. Kendall Dickson added nine points and seven rebounds. And Madison Bernarding scored eight points.

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