By STEVE GOLDMAN
For the Star Beacon
MADISON TOWNSHIP —
There is no substitute for experience.
That, of course, is nothing new or earth-shattering. You’ve heard it over and over and over, but there’s a good reason why you have. And Tuesday, that fact played a major role in the Madison girls’ 36-24 win over visiting Perry.
The Blue Streaks (2-0, 0-0) return a wealth of varsity experience this year, while the Pirates (1-1, 0-0) have only one girl back (Emily Clark) with significant minutes at that level. And as Clark is a forward, that leaves the entire backcourt without any significant varsity experience.
That, along with the Blue Streaks’ prior minutes at the varsity level, showed on Tuesday in the form of 31 Perry turnovers, a total 12 higher than Madison’s. And although the Pirates were able to stay with the Blue Streaks until very late in the contest, it also played a role in the fact Madison was able to run off the final eight points in the last three-plus minutes to extend a 28-24 advantage.
“They did a nice job, defensively,” first-year Perry coach Mike Decker said. “They’re a senior-laden team, and they’ve got some nice guards. And (coach) Mike (Smith) does a good job, especially on defenses.
“We have a young group of guards right now that are struggling with basketball IQ stuff, seeing the court. Right now, our guards are struggling to take care of the rock. (At guard), we have a lot of young girls that are new to the varsity court. So it’s just a learning process that we’re working through right now. They weren’t even pressing tonight; it was halfcourt passes.”
“We got an opportunity after we won Saturday (over Howland) to get back in time to watch them play South,” Smith said. “And we knew they were going to be fullcourt, scrappy, trapping defense, and they make you play faster than you want to. And we talked all week, saying ‘You can’t play faster than you’re able, because they’ll make you go so fast, we’ll turn it over.’
“I thought our pressure would get them to turn it over, but I thought we would handle their pressure a little bit better than we did. But we talked a little bit at halftime about execution, and I thought having a veteran team in the fourth quarter helped out. We settled in; we ran offense. When we had an opportunity to drive to the basket, we did and got fouled or scored.”
Perry had two first-quarter leads, but when Dana Appelfeller worked a short baseline jumper to break a 12-all tie late in the first half, the Blue Streaks had the lead for good.
After the Streaks pushed it to 21-14 in the third period, two baskets by Gabby Sutyak helped slice it to 21-19 late in the quarter. But Abbie Trivisonno (11 points, 6 rebounds, 4 steals) fed Tayler Gustin (3 thefts, 6 boards) for a layup and Taylor Bland split two free throws, making it 24-19 entering the final stanza.
After the Pirates crept within three, Madison built the lead to six when Julie Gavorski (7 points) scored on a drive. With more than five minutes left, Gabby West sank a jumper to cut it to 28-24.
But that was the last time Perry would put one through the net. About two minutes later, Gavorski grabbed her own rebound of a blocked shot and followed it in. Two free throws by Bland at the 1:37 mark made it 32-24, and Bland finished the scoring with a follow and two more free throws, thus registering six of her eight points in the final 1:37 of play.
“We executed when we had to,” Smith said. “Obviously, it’s always (better) to win playing a little ugly than it is to lose if you play real well.”
It was not a good night for outside shooters on either side, and for that matter, it wasn’t a good one for shooting, in general. Madison was 12 of 45 (26.7 percent) as compared to Perry’s 10 of 39 (25.7 percent), with no 3-pointers and few jumpers converted on either end. The Pirates compounded their problem by going 4 of 13 from the foul line, including one-of-eight in the fourth quarter. Madison was 12 of 23 from the stripe.
Gavorski picked up two quick fouls and sat on the bench the rest of the half, then was called for her third and sat down again early in the third quarter. Smith pointed out that his team relies on her for energy, and gave her credit for her role down the stretch.
Perry’s Kayla Cool (6 rebounds) put in six of her team-high nine points in the first period. Brittany Levkulich added seven, but only four players scored at all for the Pirates.
Melanie Primer had six rebounds and two blocked shots for t he Blue Streaks, while Celeste Farrell had a game-high eight caroms to go with three steals for Perry.
“We’ve got a good group of young girls,” Decker said. “We’re going to be a much different team in February than we are right now.
“I’m proud of ’em. I told them before the game (about) how we want to compete (and) come in with intensity. I thought they really came out here and busted it and gave a phenomenal effort.”
“Give Coach Decker a lot of credit,” Smith said. “He’s got a young team. He’s got ’em playing hard and fast. And they’re going to surprise some people.”
Goldman is a freelance writer from South Euclid.