By ERIC FORTUNE
For the Star Beacon
Making the hour-and-a-half trip from Saybrook Township to Youngstown, Dave Malone was hoping to get a spirited effort.
Instead, he got something that pained him to talk about afterward as the Lakeside Dragons fell to the Mooney Cardinals, 49-23.
“We didn’t come out to play or to compete,” Malone said. “We were not emotionally ready to play and we didn’t show up tonight. They (Mooney) play like they want to win.
“I think we are close to them but just don’t flip that switch.”
Shelby Smith struggled getting inside much for the Dragons and it hurt in that opening quarter after an early 4-4 tie. The Cardinals (6-8) rolled of the next four buckets to lead 12-4 after one.
Matters got much worse in the second quarter as the Cardinals forced numerous turnovers and clogged many of the passing lanes for Lakeside (1-16).
For the game, the Cardinals had 23 steals to just two for the Dragons as an eight-point deficit quickly ballooned to 17 at the half, 27-10.
For Mooney coach Bill Ritter, despite the play of his team in that second quarter, he was still very restrained as he feels his squad still has ways to go before it can become consistent enough.
“I don’t know if it was over in the second quarter, but we extended the lead,” Ritter said. “In that third quarter, though, they outscored us, 7-4, which made things very difficult. Then the fourth quarter turned back in our favor.”
Smith was able to finally make her presence known a bit in the early stages of that third quarter scoring seven of her team-high 11 points in the quarter.
“We wanted to go to that early,” Malone said. “I thought (Smith) was being pushed out of position early and didn’t allow us to go to what has been successful.”
If there has been an Achilles’ heel for the Cardinals, it’s been defending an inside presence that the Dragons could not exploit until it had dug itself into too big of a hole.
“I hadn’t seen them play,” Ritter said. “I didn’t know what to expect. They looked very tall. I think though both teams are struggling — trying to find something.”
After a bucket from Shy’Questa Pollard got the game within 12 at 31-19, the closest the Dragons had been since early in the second quarter, the Cardinals reeled off a 10-2 run to increase the lead out to 20 at 41-21 and squash any comeback that might have been in the cards for the Dragons.
Despite the win by the Cardinals, the mood was much that of what Malone has been feeling with his first Dragons’ squad — there is much room for improvement despite four players with four steals apiece and seven players getting into the scoring action. Jaclyn Yankle (16 points), Nichole Webber (10 points), and Jamie DiDiomencio (9 points) led the Cardinals in scoring.
“We’re nowhere where we want to be,” Ritter said. “We’re getting some individual performances that are acceptable. As a team, though, it’s still not acceptable. We’re still trying to get better everyday. Hopefully, this will get us kick started to run a few off here.”
Fortune is a freelance writer from McDonald.