Saturday’s girls basketball tilt between Linesville and Conneaut Valley featured more clumsy passes than a rookie pick-up artist on singles night.
But Linesville managed to hang on to the rock for the last 60 seconds of the game, clamping down on a 49-45 victory over the host Indians in the championship game of the Mindy Kardosh Tip-off Tournament at Valley High School.
“We threw the ball all over the county in the first half,” said Linesville head coach Bill Stevenson. “We did a little better with it in the second half. We still turned the ball over, but our defense was able to bail us out.”
The score was tied at 39-39 with about 5:30 to play when Linesville tightened up the offense and started gaining some distance on Valley.
Lions’ forward Challen Litwiler sunk a jumper with about a minute and a half to go, making it 49-43 Lions. Valley’s Rachel Hazen hit a short hopper at the other end with a minute remaining to make it a four-point game. Linesville got the ball back, passed it around the perimeter a bunch and absorbed a series of fouls as the clock wound down on what was a hard-fought 32 minutes of basketball.
“It was a dog fight,” said Stevenson, whose team is off to a 2-0 start on the year. “I think there were some jitters at first, some butterflies. But we settled down in the second half.”
Amber Litwiler ended up leading the Lions offensively, scoring 15 points. This was after she went scoreless in the first quarter while Valley built a 13-6 lead.
Linesville simply struggled to get the ball to her down low, sending passes out of bounds or into the arms of the Valley defense.
Of course, Valley wasn’t controlling the ball all that well either. Both teams, in fact, ended the first half with 15 turnovers apiece.
“I didn’t think it was as sloppy as (Friday’s) game,” said Conneaut Valley head coach Rick Chesko. “There was a lot of good defense being played.”
Stevenson agreed, saying, “There was a lot of pressing in this game. I think all 10 girls are going to sleep well tonight.”
The Lions’ guards then started heating up in the second quarter. Jenn Krider went 4-for-4 from the free throw line, and Mallory Reynolds knocked in a period-opening trey and followed that up with a 2-pointer a couple minutes later.
Linesville’s frontcourt then followed suit with Amber and Challen Litwiler splitting nine points during the final five minutes of the frame.
By the end of the second period, Linesville had outscored Valley 20-9 and went into the break leading 26-22.
However, Valley took its turn in the third. Sarah Frawley and Kelly Boyce each made some key buckets for the Indians, pushing them back out in front 35-34 going into the fourth.
Yet, in that fourth quarter, Valley’s turnover troubles persisted (the Indians had six turnovers in the frame) while the Lions kept it mostly clean (only one turnover) until the end.
“If we learned anything, we learned that we can play with (Linesville),” Chesko said. “We just need to make a few corrections. We need to be more mature on offense, make better decisions with the ball, execute passes.”
Leading the way for Valley offensively was Kristen Baker with 15 points. Emily Steigerwald and Kelly Boyce each added nine.
After Amber Litwiler’s 15 points, the Lions also got 12 out of Challen Litwiler and 10 from Jenn Krider.
Notes: Linesville ended up with three girls on the All-Tournament Team: Kimmy Litwin, and Challen and Amber Litwiler. Valley was represented by two: Boyce and Emily Steigerwald. The MVP for the tournament was Northwestern’s Haley Schaef.