NORTH RIDGEVILLE — Southwestern Conference basketball is always a tough road for teams to travel, but Wednesday night the North Ridgeville Rangers made it look “Izzy” with a 59-53 win over Amherst.
North Ridgeville’s 5-foot-9 senior Isabella Geraci led all scorers with 25 points — adding five rebounds and four steals — to spearhead the Rangers attack against a Comets team that refused to go away in the second half.
“Izzy is a once-in-a-lifetime type of player. They don’t come around that often,” Rangers coach Amy Esser said. “Her athleticism above all else is just amazing to watch. When she finishes high and finishes strong, in an open-court situation, she is very, very hard to guard. She sometimes gets really finesse instead of going up strong and I think she’s starting to figure it out, how to really just put the ball in the basket.”
And she needed to as the Rangers (4-2, 4-1 SWC) struggled to get in gear early and trailed the Comets 16-12 after one quarter. North Ridgeville responded to the slow start by outscoring Amherst 32-20 in the middle quarters, as things changed when the Rangers applied their zone defense.
“They did (change), we lost our aggressiveness and we started settling for three and that allowed them to go on a run,” Amherst coach Kevin Collins said. “We’re early in the season and so far we are struggling to shoot the ball, so I think they were trying to force us to take some threes that we weren’t comfortable with and we settled for it for a little while.”
For North Ridgeville, the Comets’ overall potential necessitated making adjustments.
“I’ll be honest, I was watching a little bit of film yesterday and we toyed with the 2-3 zone, and as we were practicing it, it kind of turned into a matchup,” Esser said. “With the shooters that they have, the outside threats that they have and the ability to drive, it was just something that our girls really bought into at the last minute. We put in about 20 minutes, that’s all we ran it yesterday, the first time in practice. But the girls finally realized that when we communicate, good things happen.”
With only two seniors, the young Comets (2-4, 1-3) are weathering a shooting slump at the same time they are adjusting to new roles and combinations on the floor.
Making it harder was Geraci was far from a one-woman show. Teammates Cianna Bright and Leia Smith created devastating inside and outside threats. Six-foot center Bright had 14 points and nine rebounds and Smith scored 15 points on outside shooting that included a trio of 3-pointers.
“We didn’t have a whole lot of size tonight so we were trying to battle inside with (Bright), but she is a load, too,” Collins said. “You kind of have to pick your poison. They got some corner threes and (Smith) hit them. All the credit goes to her for making them. In the end, Izzy wanted the ball and she finished it, which is what good players do.”
The Comets hung tough for all 32 minutes, cutting the Rangers’ lead to five or six points several times thanks to double-digit scorers Kamryn Dziak (14), Kate Iliff (13) and Faith Lewis (10). But each time a North Ridgeville player would find a counter play.
“With seven seniors, a lot of leadership, it’s where we want to be,” Esser said. “We want to compete at the highest level and not just win games, but do more than that. We still have a lot of room to grow with the mistakes we are making but we’re trying to get better every game. Amherst is a good, well-disciplined team and you can’t take a second off with them.”
Contact Fred Steiner at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
North Ridgeville 59, Amherst 53
AMHERST (53): Audrey McConihe 2-2-6, Kamryn Dziak 4-3-14, Marisa Gillam 4-0-8, Kate Iliff 4-2-13, Jill Wood 0-0-0, Faith Lewis 4-2-10, Katie Turner 1-0-2, Amaya Staton 0-0-0, Amaya Menendez 0-0-0, Anna Cairns 0-0-0. Totals 19-9-53.
NORTH RIDGEVILLE (59): Isabella Geraci 8-6-25, Kolby Duke 1-0-2, Leia Smith 3-0-15, Lauren Milner 1-1-3, Cianna Bright 7-0-14, Hailey McGregor 0-0-0, Arianna Mason 0-0-0, Katie Barno 0-0-0. Totals 20-7-59.
Amherst 16 6 14 17 — 53
N. Ridgeville 12 16 16 15 — 59
Three-point goals: Amherst 2-12 (Dziak, Iliff), North Ridgeville 4-10 (Smith 3, Geraci). Field goals: Amherst 21-54 (39 percent), North Ridgeville 24-39 (62 percent). Free throws: Amherst 9-14 (64 percent), North Ridgeville 7-21 (33 percent). Rebounds: Amherst 19 (Iliff 7), North Ridgeville 28 (Bright 9). Total fouls: Amherst 18, North Ridgeville 11. Turnovers: Amherst 15, North Ridgeville 18.
Junior varsity: North Ridgeville, 42-31.