LORDSTOWN - Lordstown entered the 2013-2014 basketball season with some questions, especially in relation to the health and availability of senior standout Sarah Cash after tearing her ACL the previous May.
Following the Red Devils' game against Windham at Lordstown High School on Thursday night, those questions have been answered, as the Red Devils beat their Northeastern Athletic Conference foe, 57-46, to stretch their winning streak to nine games.
The win capped a big eight-day span in which Lordstown (10-2, 6-0 NAC) beat defending district champion Maplewood and the Bombers (10-3, 6-3 NAC).
Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
Lordstown’s Marlena Liming, right, drives past Windham’s Jessica Isler and is fouled as she attempts her shot during second-quarter action on Thursday night.
Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
Lordstown’s Sarah Cash looks back to her bench after making her 1,500th point during the third quarter of Thursday night’s game against Windham.
"I think people are starting to take us more seriously," Lordstown senior Ally Hajnosz said. "At the beginning of the season, we fell short to Newton Falls real quick, and people just overlooked us, and now, with beating Maplewood and Windham and (upcoming) opponent PV, we're becoming more visible to teams. We're not just some team to look over ... we're competitive this year, and we're not going to let down."
Things didn't look too great early against Windham. The Bombers jumped out to a 5-0 lead 3 minutes into the game and eventually pushed the lead to six points before the Red Devils came back and managed to take a 10-9 lead at the 1:38 mark.
"They came out and jumped on us pretty good," Lordstown coach Dave Smith said. "Windham's a very good team. So it's kind of hard sometimes to fight back from a good team, but we kept our composure and battled back."
Smith changed the flow of the game 10 seconds later when he called a timeout. He implemented a full-court trapping press with the 6-foot-1 Cash, sitting up top to hassle whoever caught the inbound pass. Windham struggled with the press, committing 22 turnovers in the game, nine in the second quarter alone.
The Red Devils took full advantage of Windham's mistakes, taking a 10-point lead less than 1 minute into the second quarter.
"We didn't execute real well against their press, and we didn't execute real well in the halfcourt," Windham coach Gregg Isler said. "You got to give them credit on their defense for that. They took us out of some things that we like to do, and we just never found that niche."
Once taking the lead on a Marlena Liming drive at 1:05 mark in the first, the Red Devils never trailed, but the Bombers didn't go away quietly. With 7:17 remaining in the third quarter, Dari Heller found Brittany Knight in the low post, and Knight finished the play and was fouled to pull within one, 25-24.
Knight missed the free throw, and the Red Devils responded the next time down the floor when Hajnosz drove to the basket for a bucket. That proved to be the closest the Bombers ever came, as Lordstown went on a 16-8 run over the next 8 minutes and led by as many as 13 early in the fourth.
"We played in good spurts toward the second half with our defense, and that got us the lead," said Cash, who scored her 1,500th-point at the 3:28 mark in the third quarter. "We just kept playing well to keep the lead."
Cash finished with a game-high 22 points.
With the win, Lordstown continues to be undefeated in league play, but Smith said he didn't want to look too far ahead with a long, tough schedule down the stretch.
"I don't like to look forward very much, but if we keep playing like we do, we definitely can see another league title," Smith said. "I know we have a couple non-league games coming, and then we have Chalker and the big one on the (Jan.) 27 against Pymatuning Valley."