ELYRIA — The weather outside was frightful. So was the way Elyria’s girls played the first half against Solon inside their own gym Saturday night.
In a battle of unbeatens, the Pioneers fell behind Solon by 25 points at halftime of their big Northeast Ohio Conference game.
Then, in a gutsy display of character, Elyria pulled within six points early in the fourth quarter before the Comets pulled away for a 69-53 victory. The Comets improved to 7-0, 3-0 NOC. Elyria fell to 7-1, 2-1.
Elyria, playing without 6-foot-1 Tai Dotson, who was out with a concussion, were at a serious height disadvantage with the Comets’ 6-2 Erin Wisner in the post. But the Pioneers even turned around the rebounding numbers in the second half.
Some might argue that happened in part because Wisner fouled out barely two minutes into the fourth quarter. But Solon didn’t suffer with her on the bench.
Leading the Pioneers by nine points at the time, the Comets quickly put the margin back at 15 points with a 10-5 run.
Solon coach Julie Solis said she anticipated the Pioneers’ comeback.
“I think our kids were so surprised to get the lead they got in the first half that they kind of relaxed,” she said. “With Mike Walsh on the other bench, I told them, ‘You guys better watch out because he’s going to have his kids ready to play in the second half.’ I just knew it. I knew it was coming.”
Pioneers coach Walsh wasn’t happy, despite the comeback.
“Moral victories,” he said with a hint of irony. “That was what they call a moral victory, but the only reason we did that was because they (Comets) can’t shoot free throws.”
Partially correct, because Solon was just 3-of-11 from the foul line in the second half and barely above 40 percent for the game.
But the other part was the way the Pioneers got their offense going. They outscored Solon 24-10 in the third quarter as senior Honesty King hit two of her 3-point field goals, went backdoor for a two-point basket and made four straight foul shots without a miss. And junior Tess Sito scored six of her 11 total points during the quarter.
Elyria cut the Solon lead to 52-46 when senior Kassandra Messenger drilled a three and Sito scored just over a minute into the fourth period. It was as close as the Pioneers got. They cut the deficit to 59-52 when Brigette Jones made two foul shots with 4:34 left, but Solon finished the game on a 10-2 roll.
King finished with a game-high 24 points. Sito and Jones scored 11 apiece. Junior Kirsten Holmes, who had 14 of Solon’s 42 first-half points, scored a team-high 21 points, a season high for her. Tawanda Warren added 13, and Wisner and Dana Banda scored 10 points each.
“We were the big moral-victory winner tonight,” said Walsh. “We didn’t play well at all. I guess if you wanted to say something nice about us, we didn’t quit. That’s usually what the losing coach says. But this is just another game. We’re on a 20-game preseason schedule. We’re really playing for the tournament.”
Solon 69, Elyria 53
SOLON (69): Erin Wisner 5-0-10, Kathleen Russell 4-1-9, Dana Banda 4-2-10, Kaitlynn Zoller 1-2-4, Kirsten Holmes 9-3-21, Robin Gilmore 1-0-2, Tawanda Warren 5-3-13. Totals: 29-11-69.
ELYRIA (53): Kortney Schweitzer 0-0-0, Jessica Mandula 0-0-0, Kassandra Messenger 2-0-5, Stephanie Littlejohn 1-0-2, Darcy Warden 0-0-0, Charnele Oliver 0-0-0, Honesty King 8-5-24, Ashley Nemes 0-0-0, Brigette Jones 3-5-11, Tess Sito 4-3-11, Kristen Burrey 0-0-0. Totals: 18-14-53.
Solon 19 23 10 17 – 69
Elyria 9 8 24 12 – 53
3-point goals: Solon 0-9; Elyria 4-12 (King 3, Messenger). Field goals: Solon 29-73 (40 percent); Elyria 18-57 (32 percent). Free throws: Solon 11-27; Elyria 13-21. Rebounds: Solon 44; Elyria 38. Turnovers: Solon 13; Elyria 24
Fouled out: Wisner, Sito. Technical foul: Elyria coach Walsh.
Junior varsity: Solon, 35-31.