Blue beats Red in battle of Devils

MINERAL RIDGE – In the mind of a basketball coach, nine first-half turnovers is nine too many.

The assumption can then be made that 18 more turnovers in the second isn’t a good thing.

The Lordstown Red Devils turned over possession 27 times, which easily sums up their 50-44 loss to the Western Reserve Blue Devils Thursday in a girls’ Division IV district semifinal.

“You can’t win with (almost) 30 turnovers,” Red Devils coach Dave Smith said. “They capitalized on our turnovers, and we didn’t capitalize on theirs. That was a big part of it.”

The second-seeded Red Devils finished with a 19-4 record. The third-seeded Blue Devils, who play top-seeded Columbiana Saturday in the final, are 19-6.

The Blue Devils did their best to nearly keep pace with their opponents in the turnover category. Western Reserve finished with 22, including 14 in a sloppy second half.

The difference was the Blue Devils’ ability to make up for many of their mistakes with solid play by the duo of Aleah Hughes and Rachel Maslach. The two combined for 38 points – 19 each – and 16 rebounds – 10 by Hughes and six by Maslach.

The turnover problem is something Blue Devils coach Steve Miller has learned to manage.

“It wasn’t different than it’s been,” Miller said. “If you haven’t watched us, you’re going to say, ‘Wow, the team can’t handle the ball. They turn over the ball a lot.’ We do. Statistics don’t lie. We’re going to turn the ball over 20 times. We have to get back on defense, because in the halfcourt game we’re pretty darn good.”

Falling behind 14-8 following the opening quarter, the Blue Devils needed a spark. Hughes was quick to answer the challenge, making two of her three 3-point shots in an eight-point second period.

Sarah Cash scored six of her team-high 16 points in the second quarter for the Red Devils, who held a precarious 23-19 lead at halftime. The first few minutes of the third period proved vital in determining the outcome.

“I told them to emphasize that it’s a 0-0 game and they (the Blue Devils) aren’t going to roll over for us,” Smith said. “We just didn’t execute well.”

Western Reserve tied the score at 23 on two free throws by Maslach at the 4:57 mark of the third quarter, but Lordstown regained the lead on a fielder by Mary Bennett. The score was tied at 27 and 29 before the Blue Devils took the lead for good on a fielder by Maslach.

The Red Devils, trailing 34-27 through three quarters, got as close as two points (39-37) in the final period. One free throw apiece by Lauren Falasca and Maslach and a fielder by Maslach gave the Blue Devils some breathing room at 43-37.

Miller was surprised that the Blue Devils didn’t have a wider margin of victory considering the scoring efforts of Hughes and Maslach.

“If you had told me (before the game) that they both had 19, I’m not thinking it was as close as it was,” said Miller, who expected Hughes to struggle a bit against the defense of the taller Cash. “Our game plan was to pound it into Rachel. I thought we had an advantage there no matter who was guarding her.”

Ally Hajnosz added 13 points to the Red Devils’ scoring, including three 3-point shots.