AVON LAKE - The Elyria girls won their third straight basketball game Saturday afternoon. It was neither easy nor artistically compelling, but it came on the road against perennially strong Avon Lake, 47-38.
It was the Shoregals` season opener. It was also the 200th career victory for Pioneers coach Mike Walsh. His players observed the milestone by giving him postgame flowers and a sheet cake with white frosting.
The Pioneers led from beginning to end, although it looked for a time as though the Shoregals might catch them early in the second half. Three minutes into the third quarter, Avon Lake`s Miranda Barnhart converted a three-point play and Katie Largent drove for a basket to cut Elyria`s lead to 28-24.
But that was as close as the Shoregals got. Brigette Jones, Honesty King and Charnele Oliver put on a 6-2 run midway through the fourth quarter, which stretched the Pioneers` lead to 43-33. King scored a game-high 21 points. Tai Dotson, Elyria`s junior post, finished with eight points and 11 rebounds.
"I felt I could have done better (on the backboards)," said Dotson, "but I had the team also rebounding."
She said the Pioneers weren`t exactly worried when Avon Lake made its third-quarter run at them.
"I don`t think nervous is the word," Dotson said. "We just needed to slow down and make them play defense. We`re learning how to deal with pressure."
King said she knows Avon Lake is always a difficult opponent, especially at home.
"We always need to try to win on the road," she said. "You don`t always get the calls on the road, so we just need to go out and play even harder in away games. (The Shoregals) are a great defensive team and they slowed us down. We didn`t make them play a lot of defense. We just had to come out and play hard."
The Pioneers` foul shooting was shaky in the early going â€“ just 6-for-14 through three quarters â€“ but they were perfect at the line in the fourth quarter.Â
"The sign of a good team is when you can go 4-for-4 at the foul line when it counted," said Walsh. "I told the team, it`s also the sign of a good team when you don`t play your best and you can win on the road in a hard place to win.
"Let me tell you, Avon Lake is a tough team to play. They`ve got a lot of new kids, but they run that system. They`re gonna play good defense and on offense, they`re going to run that flex and they`ll throw 30 passes till they shoot."
Walsh downplayed his 200th win.
"Like my dad said at one point, â€˜All it means when you start getting a lot of wins is you`ve been around a long time,`" he said. "I guess I`ve been around doing this for a long time now. And it`s a credit not only to this team, but obviously we`ve had some great teams in the past and a good coaching staff."
The Shoregals` Barnhart scored a team-high 11 points and was the only Avon Lake player to score in double figures.
"For a first game it wasn`t bad, especially with no starters back," said Shoregals coach Amy Manco. "Against (one of the better teams) in the area, I thought we held our own, at least defensively. Holding Honesty down is a tough job. She`s a good ballplayer. At least we have some things to build on and maybe we built some confidence."
Elyria 47, Avon Lake 38
ELYRIA (47): Kortney Schweitzer 1-0-2, Kassandra Messenger 1-0-2, Darcy Warden 0-0-0, Charnele Oliver 1-1-3, Honesty King 7-6-21, Brigette Jones 2-0-4, Tai Dotson 4-0-8, Tess Sito 2-2-6, Kristen Burrey 0-0-0, Alesha Mahone 0-1-1. Totals 18-10-47.
AVON LAKE (38): Katie Largent 2-0-4, Hallie Orlinski 0-0-0, Miranda Barnhart 5-1-11, Melanie Pappas 0-0-0, Dana Barnes 4-0-8, Ashley Forbes 1-0-2, Nicole Haas 0-0-0, Ali Palmer 1-0-2, Brianne Kenny 2-2-6, Bridget Lyons 0-2-2, Kalli Wakefield 0-0-0, Clare Nikrant 1-1-3. Totals 16-6-38.
Elyria Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 13Â 12Â 12Â 10Â - Â 47
Avon LakeÂ 8Â 11Â 10Â 9Â - Â 38
Three-point goals: Elyria 1-8 (King); Avon Lake 0-2. Field goals: Elyria 18-58 (31 percent); Avon Lake 16-47 (34 percent). Free throws: Elyria 10-18; Avon Lake 6-15. Rebounds: Elyria 33; Avon Lake 30. Turnovers: Elyria 16; Avon Lake 23.
Junior varsity: Avon Lake, 42-25.
Contact Bob Daniels at 329-7137 or email@example.com.