Patience pays off for Rams

Mineral Ridge flies past Girard in Division III sectional

Tribune Chronicle / John Vargo Mineral Ridge’s Fran Kesner (22) looks to pass while being defended by Girard’s Bella Alejars, middle, and Samantha Cave, right, during their game Wednesday in Mineral Ridge.

MINERAL RIDGE — Mineral Ridge bided its time as Girard surged ahead in the first quarter.

The Rams knew when the time was right and then deployed their plan at the start of the second quarter during Wednesday’s 65-39 victory over Girard in a Division III Struthers District sectional first-round game.

The Indians held a 12-8 lead after the first quarter, but that changed quickly during a 22-7 second-quarter run by the Rams. Girard’s Samantha Cave had a 3 to cut the Mineral Ridge lead to 22-18, but the Rams (12-11) finished on an 8-1 run to lead 30-19 on a last-second basket by Alexa Harkins, who had a game-high 16 points for the Rams. Fran Kesner added 10.

Girard’s Sophia Strollo led the Indians (5-18) with 10 points, a team that goes about seven deep.

“We wait until they got tired, then we put the press on them,” Mineral Ridge coach Matt Cluse said. “They got tired with the press. It worked. The girls executed the game plan well.”

Tribune Chronicle / John Vargo Mineral Ridge’s Noelle Bukovina, left, fights off Girard’s Hanna Jones for position during Wednesday’s Division III Struthers District sectional first-round game. The Rams handled the Indians, 65-39.

Girard had nine of its 26 turnovers and shot 7 of 22 from the floor in the second quarter, two of the Achilles’ heels of its program.

“That combination isn’t good in an offensive game,” Girard coach Andy Saxon said.

Mineral Ridge outrebounded Girard 32 to 19 with Harkins getting nine rebounds.

“We got some bigs,” Cluse said. “We try to play big, pull your britches up and play in the paint.”

Eleventh-seeded Girard, which played this season with mostly freshmen and sophomores, has some work to do in the offseason to improve. That’s what Saxon is hoping for as the Indians head into next season.

“Hopefully they realize what it takes in the offseason,” he said. “Offense is made in the offeseason and we struggled all year, turning the ball over. Shooting and dribbling are things we don’t do well and those are two basic skills in basketball.”

Saturday, sixth-seeded Mineral Ridge takes third-seeded Columbiana in a sectional bracket final in Columbiana.

WKBN, the Tribune Chronicle’s news partner, said Columbiana coach Ron Moschella has to follow guidelines to stay with the Clippers, according to the Columbiana School District.

Parents complained about Moschella’s language, how they treated their daughter.

That won’t be part of Mineral Ridge’s thinking heading into Saturday’s game, starting at 1 p.m.

“They’ll be ready to play,” Cluse said. “It won’t effect them. That’s a good basketball team and we’ve got to play perfect.”