LORDSTOWN - The Newton Falls Tigers pressed Lordstown from start to finish, causing countless turnovers and winning the contest, 53-31. A revolving door of 14 players - all of the girls on the Newton Falls roster - played and most contributed substantial minutes.
"I think that the kids really brought out a great intensity," Newton Falls coach Mark Baker said. "I thought that being Game 1 you always think there is going to be a lot of nerves and everybody is going to be a little skittish at the start. I think that the kids did a great job of maintaining their composure and making sure that they were playing within themselves. Playing fast but not playing too fast. We are fortunate this year that we can play a lot of girls and have a lot of fresh bodies in there. We were able to keep the pressure on them for really that first half."
To begin the game, the Tigers relied on their 1-2-2 press, which allowed them to keep the ball under control. Out of that press, they also trapped when the time was right, and it led to Lordstown mistakes. The turnovers they caused were converted into the points they needed to build their lead.
"We didn't have to make too many adjustments," Baker said. "We altered some things that we were doing defensively. A couple times we were getting beat down the floor and it was just a mix-match of match-ups and we were trying to change up some defenses I think a little too often. So we were actually trying to do less in the second half. We were doing a little bit too much and it was leading to some confusion."
Two of Newton Falls eight seniors, Alissa Abraham and Brooke Barreca, combined for 27 points. Abraham had 14 while Barecca added 13. Barreca said the outcome directly came from the preparation her coaches provided within the last week.
"We just worked really hard in practice," Barreca said. "We really wanted to set up the offense. We have really been trying to work on team chemistry and getting each other the ball. Whenever we saw someone double teamed, we would see the open girl. It's just a lot a great teamwork. We have been playing with each other for so long. Having eight seniors, some of us have been playing together since sixth grade. So we have a lot of team chemistry."
The game was a bit one-sided as Lordstown's leading scorer did not play on Friday night. Senior Sarah Cash, who scored her 1,000th point during her junior campaign, tore her ACL in the offseason, but is expected to return soon.
"She said that they might clear her in another week or two before she can actually start playing," Lordstown coach Dave Smith said. "She had surgery on her ACL May 22, so we are right at six months."
Baker knows the game would have been different had Cash been in the lineup.
"She's a great player," Baker said. "I wish her the best of luck. I hope she gets healthy soon. Obviously, as good of a player as she is, it very well could have been a nail-biter. We prepared all week as if she was going to play. I continually expected her to come in. If she didn't play that quarter, I was expecting her to be at the table at any second. We were certainly prepared for her defensively. Unfortunately for her, she's not 100 percent just yet. I certainly do wish her the best of luck."
Allie Hajnosz led the Red Devils with 10 points on the night. Right behind her was Talia Tobin, who had eight points.