By STEVE GOLDMAN
For the Star Beacon
MADISON TOWNSHIP —
The Madison girls couldn’t find their rhythm Wednesday. Mentor had that problem for one half, or almost one half. And as it often happens in basketball, the team that finds less rhythm got beat.
It was a very tight game until the final minute of the second half, when the Cardinals scored two baskets. Then they held the host Blue Streaks without a field goal for more than the first seven minutes of the second half, and pulled away to a 67-42 non-conference win.
Mentor (8-4) ran off the first eight points after the intermission, making it a 13-0 run dating back to the first half. The run extended a 23-20 edge to 36-20, and the Cardinals tacked on an 11-0 streak later in the same period, extending it to 49-22.
After that surge, which ended with about 47 seconds left in the quarter, Mentor had had the upper hand by a 26-2 margin from the last few minutes of the first half.
The Cardinals pushed as high as 65-32 in the final frame.
“Very disappointing for us,” Madison coach Mike Smith, whose team scored seven points in both the second and third quarters, said. “We didn’t make shots. And it seems like when we’re making shots we get rolling. And we just couldn’t get into any kind of rhythm today.”
“We couldn’t get into the flow the first half,” Mentor coach Steve Thompson said. “We went into the locker room all cool and collected, and I basically said, ‘Hey, we need our seniors to step up and provide a little leadership.’ And I thought Lacey Miller did real well, Lauren Stefancin came up with 16 points in the second half.
“In the first half, we couldn’t get our rhythm. And Madison shot the ball very well the first half. And the second half we seemed to pick it up a little bit, Madison cooled off a little bit.”
The Blue Streaks were without star guard Taylor Bland, who had an injured ankle.
“Obviously Bland being out really hurts us because she’s our leading scorer,” Smith said. “But she also settles us down and makes that big play when we need it.”
Kayla Gabor (17 points, 7 rebounds) and Stefancin (19 points, 5 steals) each scored eight points in the third quarter for Mentor. Gabor also scored on a driving baseline layup in the final minute of the first half, before teammate Katelyn Zdanowicz (13 points) converted a Natalie Pachinger theft into a layup to make it 28-20 at halftime.
Abbie Trivisonno led Madison (10-3, 6-1) with 16 points and added four steals and two blocks, although she sat for almost the entire second quarter with two fouls.
“We stayed with them in the first half,” Smith said. “With Trivisonno on the bench with two (fouls), we stayed with them. So I thought, ‘OK, now we’ll come out in the third quarter.’ And we came out and laid an egg. We didn’t execute; we panicked a little bit.
“But they’re a solid team. They have so much depth and size and got shooters. I thought we did a really good job in the first half defensively. Stefancin can flat-out shoot, and I thought we held her down pretty well. And then in the second half she got layups because we were just turning the ball over.”
“We made a few adjustments at halftime defensively on some of the stuff that they were running,” Thompson said. “We tried to mix things up more — instead of staying in one defensive press, we tried to switch it up, even while the possession was happening. And the girls responded really well.”
The Blue Streaks had 25 turnovers. Mentor committed 19, but a good number of those came in the waning minutes. Madison’s Chanel Crawford played only near the end of the contest, but nevertheless came up with four steals.
Dana Appelfeller had 11 points and Melanie Primer eight caroms for Madison. But the Blue Streaks went just 15-of-51 (29.4 percent) from the floor and nine-of-26 from the foul line. Mentor converted 27-of-55 field goal attempts (49.1 percent).
Miller had nine points and nine rebounds and Christine Dawson eight boards for Mentor, while Courtney Schutz had two of its eight blocked shots.
“Their size didn’t hurt us early, but they disrupt a lot of shots,” Smith said. “And their press hurt us, and I didn’t think it would.”
Goldman is a freelance writer from South Euclid.