Ringing in 1,000: Maplewood’s Bell reaches milestone

MECCA – This has been a bittersweet four days for Maplewood’s Allison Bell.

Bell, a 5-foot-8 senior guard, set the school’s all-time scoring record Thursday against Southington and entered Monday night’s contest against Lowellville nearing 1,000 career points.

Bell reached her personal goal, scoring 20 points to put her at 1,001 for her career, but the Rockets fell short against Lowellville, dropping a 59-50 defeat in her final home game.

“It felt awesome to know that all my hard work had paid off and I couldn’t have done it without my teammates supporting me,” Bell said. “They looked for me and gave me the ball when I’m open.

“It was definitely emotional for me. I didn’t think it would be that emotional. It was, and it was a great feeling. I wish we could’ve won, but we played the best we could.”

Maplewood coach Mark Yoder said Bell has worked extremely hard to become a top scorer for the Rockets.

“Allison’s been clutch for us ever since she was a freshman,” he said. “She’s started for us and she’s one of those girls that puts a lot of time in the offseason. She shoots thousands and thousands of shots, not just in her driveway at home, but she comes in here during the summer. She goes to a shooting coach down in Youngstown in the summer.

“She knows she’s not gifted with a lot of natural ability as far as athleticism goes. She’s not the fastest girl on the floor. She’s not the strongest girl on the floor. She’s not going to wow you with a bunch of moves, but she’s a very accurate shooter and she knows how to score.”

Lowellville coach Tony Matisi said his team getting tougher on defense was the key to the comeback.

“I think picking up our defense at the end of the third quarter,” he said. “We came out second half and played well, and we cut the lead, but then they made another run at us.”

Bell made a pair of free throws with 40.5 seconds to play to put her past four figures and pull her team within 53-50, but she fouled out seconds later as Maplewood tried to cut the deficit. Lowellville, however, didn’t fold and give up its advantage.

“I tried to do everything I could,” Bell said. “There was a couple girls that stepped up, but tonight just wasn’t our night.”

Maplewood (17-4) led by as many as 11 points in the first half, but Lowellville turned up the defensive intensity and played its way back in the game.

“The fourth quarter, they definitely did the things they needed to do in picking up the pressure on defense,” Yoder said. “They created some key turnovers that translated into some easy baskets. They hit the offensive boards harder than they did before. I think they had more offensive rebounds in the fourth quarter than they had the first three quarters combined.”

Rachel Durbin led the comeback for Lowellville (19-2), scoring 10 of her 14 in the fourth quarter. She twice scored baskets that got her team to within two points, then Courtney Conklin had a steal and a layup that tied the game at 45.

“(Durbin’s) clutch,” Matisi said. “That’s the girl we want on the line shooting free throws, her and Kaye (Solak, who scored 23). Four-year starter. You want the ball in her hands. In close games, you want the ball in her hands.”

Moments later, Solak scored twice in a row to give Lowellville its first lead of the game at 49-47 with 2:04 to play, an advantage it would never relinquish.

Matisi said that playing a tough team like Maplewood is good preparation for the tournament, while Yoder said he and his team are looking forward to a potential rematch.

“This is great. This prepared us so much for it (the tournament),” Matisi said. “I’d be lying if I didn’t say we want to get to regionals. We’ve got a tough road in our district. It’s always a tough road but we’re a veteran team. These kids have been through it before.”

“That’s what I told their coach when we shook hands at the end of the game,” Yoder said. “I said, ‘I sure hope we get a rematch.’ Because if that rematch occurs it’ll be in the regional semifinals.”