Braves ‘steal’ win from JFK, 65-59

Tribune Chronicle / Eric Murray John F. Kennedy sophomore Marikate Roscoe, left, passes to a teammate while being guarded by Badger’s Emma Hunkus on Thursday night during the Braves’ 65-59 win at Kennedy.

WARREN — The Badger Braves girls basketball team will try to take a swipe at the ball anytime they’re on defense, and Thursday night at John F. Kennedy was no exception. The Braves had 14 steals and forced 30 Eagle turnovers in their 65-59 win over Kennedy.

“This group here has a real nose for the basketball,” Badger coach Dusty Karr said. “They see an opportunity maybe to go jump the ballhandler and get one (a steal), (but) we don’t actually script that, we advise it. We go over those things and let them go ahead and make plays.”

In the first half, the Braves had some troubles with Kennedy’s trap and press defense, but on the other hand, the Eagles had just as much difficulty against Badger’s aggressive defense.

Badger got out to a quick 10-4 lead, only to see Kennedy go on a 10-4 run of its own to end the first quarter. In the opening quarter, Antonella LaMonica and Caitlyn Condoleon each had five points for the Eagles, as they tied the game at 14 heading into the second period.

The second frame became more of a back-and-forth contest, as a Paige Kramar jumper and a Rebecca Litz layup for the Braves was countered by a pair of Taejah Burney layups.

Trailing 24-23 with less than a minute remaining in the first half, Madison Karr drilled a 3-pointer to put the Braves back in the lead, 26-24. Kennedy, down 28-24, made three free throws with 0.2 seconds left in the half, as LaMonica was fouled on a 3-pointer, closing the deficit to 28-27, at the half.

“First half, (I thought) we adjusted well to their press, I think it kind of got to us early,” Karr said. “These girls, it’s their second year, but they’ve played a lot of basketball. I thought they settled down well and they handled the pressure and got the ball to the open people.”

Kiersten Tricker had five of her nine points in the third quarter, alone. However, it was her freshman teammate, Paige Kramar, who began to take over. Kramar had six of her 15 points in the fourth quarter, as her Braves led by one heading into the final period.

Down 51-50, Kramar made a layup to reclaim the lead, before Kennedy answered with a Burney layup. Litz then got a steal, drove down the court for the layup and the foul, as her three-point play put Badger ahead, 55-53.

Kramar soon added another layup and then a short jumper as she was driving to the basket, extending the lead to six points. Badger then went up by eight as Emma Hunkus added a layup with 1:11 left, putting the game on ice.

For Condoleon and his young Kennedy (1-1) team, the North Coast League provides a number of opponents that share the same aggressiveness as Badger, making this non-conference game a great learning experience for the young Eagles.

“In the NCL, playing Villa (Angela-St. Joseph) and Cleveland Central (Catholic), we’re playing against quickness, we’re playing against that,” Karr said. “But give Badger credit, they came out and they went after it, they ended up with every loose ball. Especially after we turned them over, they still found a way to get it back. That’s what I think where the difference was, their hustle to the loose balls.”

As for Badger (2-0), the Braves return six letterwinners, led by Karr, who had 15 points on the night. However, the X-factor in Thursday night’s game was Kramar, who Karr said was a real mismatch for the Kennedy defense.

“I wasn’t taking it to the rim that much in the first half,” Kramar said. “Coach kept telling me to take it to the rim (in the second half), so I started to.”