Shorthanded Lordstown pushes past Tigers

LORDSTOWN — The Lordstown Red Devils girls basketball team got their Division IV sectional tournament off to a great start with a 47-32 first-round victory over Wellsville.

The Northeast Athletic Conference Stripes Division champions found a way to win with some key members limited or missing due to injury.

Leading scorer junior Kellee Applegate returned after missing six games with a foot injury. Although Applegate was limping, she still made an impact with her presence inside by blocking shots.

“I came to a jump stop in the Mathews game and I heard a pop. I thought I broke my foot,” Applegate said. “I went to the doctor and got an MRI. Nothing is torn. They just said it was bruised. It hurt out there, but it’s getting better. It’s definitely healing.”

Lordstown was without starter Alexis Weekley. The junior tore her ACL Dec. 14. She played three games with the injury before having surgery Feb. 9.

“I knew I was having surgery, so I played because why not,” Weekley said. “Good luck to the team. We’ll be winning districts.”

After outscoring Wellsville 14-6 in the first quarter, Lordstown appeared to have the game in control.

With 5 minutes left in the second quarter, Lordstown’s Kaylynn Higinbotham nailed a 3 to give the Red Devils a 21-8 lead. It took Lordstown the remainder of the half to find the basket again. Freshman Ava Spano, who had a team-high 12 points, made a nice move to the hoop and connected on a lay-up as the halftime buzzer sounded to give Lordstown a 23-10 lead.

“Ava’s coming around and playing well,” Lordstown coach Dave Smith said. “She understands the game. She gets to the rim. She rebounds well. She defends well. She’s doing a great job as a freshman.”

Wellsville kept up their stingy defense in the third quarter. The Tigers scored the first six points of the half to cut the deficit to 23-16. Lordstown scored two points in a 12-minute stretch. Senior Jordan Beach finally got the Red Devils scoring again when she made a lay-up with 1 minute left in the quarter. Lordstown got the lead back up to 12 to start the fourth.

Hunter Weekley hit a 3 for Wellsville to get them back within 32-23 early in the fourth. Higinbotham, who had a nice game with 11 points, answered right back with a quick basket.

“I love the feeling of playing basketball,” Higinbotham said. “I love being on the court. I liked the freshmen getting a chance to play. It helps them get ready for next year. I love being able to help the freshmen.”

Lordstown outscored Wellsville 19-16 in a fast-paced fourth quarter.

Senior Menina Jackson was a force to be reckoned with for the Tigers. She scored a game-high 18 points.

“Menina’s my senior. She’s a great player,” Wellsville coach Ed Swogger said. “I thought we did a nice job of chipping back into the game. We cranked up the defense. We’re a young team. It was a pretty good effort, but fatigue might have caught up with us.”

Sixth-seeded Lordstown moves on to the next round of tournament play. They visit No. 3 seed Western Reserve at 1 p.m. Saturday.

“Jordan Beach rolled her ankle two days ago, so I had to limit her play,” Smith said. “Kellee is just coming back, so I had to limit her minutes as well. We went a long time without scoring in the game. We couldn’t hit a lay-up during that stretch. With all the injuries, it’s a good victory.”