By Jim Hunter
Conneaut coach Bill Stevenson knows when to flip the switch.
Playing to Saegertown’s half-court game and scoring only seven points in the first quarter, Stevenson had seen enough and decided to hit the “attack” button.
In a 42-second blur, Conneaut — applying a full-court press and recording three steals in the process — went from a 9-7 deficit to a 15-9 lead and went on to a 35-23 victory Saturday night in Region 3 girls basketball action.
The win kept CASH perfect in the league at 9-0 and is now 16-2 overall. Saegertown dropped to 10-6 and 6-3.
“We just beat a good ballclub,” said Stevenson. “They dictate the tempo of the game, and for the most part, they did. We had to grind out this win.”
Playing its slow-down game, Saegertown coach Steve Scott had the game going his way in the opening quarter as his Panthers stayed even with the favored Eagles at 7-7.
Then, on Saegertown’s opening possession in the second quarter, Victoria Eckart tossed in a 12-foot bank shot to give the Panthers a 9-7 lead.
A steamed-up Stevenson then flipped the switch.
After Mallory Reynolds drained a 3-pointer off a turnover, junior Kristen Baker scored on two offensive rebounds and sank one free throw to give the Eagles a 15-9 lead with 6:28 remaining in the first half.
Conneaut’s full-court press did the trick.
“We changed it up at the beginning of the second quarter and got some turnovers,” said Stevenson.
Conneaut led the rest of the way, but Saegertown made a couple runs.
Trailing 17-12, Rachel DiBartolomeo scooped up a loose ball and converted a three-point play and Katie Kapanick made one of two free throws with three seconds remaining in the first half to cut Conneaut’s halftime lead to 17-16.
The Panthers nearly grabbed the lead in the opening seconds of the third period as Arianna Hanley’s 15-foot jumper went in-and-out.
Too close for comfort for Stevenson & Co.
CASH answered the close call with two long-distance jumpers as Baker and Kimmy Litwin drained 3-pointers to push the Eagles’ lead to 23-17 with 6:08 left in the third quarter.
The Eagles’ “D” did the rest.
Leading 31-23 with 4:43 left in the game, Conneaut held Saegertown scoreless for the remainder of the game.
“Holding a team the caliber of Saegertown to only seven points in the second half is a great defensive job,” said Stevenson. “It was a team effort.”
Baker led Conneaut with 14 points and Challen Litwiler and Litwin scored nine and eight points, respectively.
DiBartolomeo was Saeger-town’s top gun with 10 points.