South Range shines, Brookfield falls in D-III district semifinal

STRUTHERS – Posted on the door of South Range’s locker room hung a sign that read, “Are you satisfied?”

After the Raiders won the Inter Tri-County League, Division I conference championship, coach Tony Matisi and his coaching staff felt that they were in fact satisfied with that win.

“We have been living with this,” Matisi said. “The coaching staff made this sign and we hung it up on the door after we had won our conference because it seemed like in practice the next day that we were satisfied with that. We really got into them about how that is all well and good, but that is what we are expected to do is win conference championships. The thing you want to do is move on. It really struck a nerve and really hit home with them. That has been our mantra, are you satisfied? We use it every day.”

After defeating Mooney and Girard in two close games to begin tournament play, South Range arrived at Struthers Fieldhouse and handled Brookfield with the 43-29 win in a Division III district semifinal.

South Range’s defensive effort shook up Brookfield (16-8), causing the Warriors to have to begin their offense in spots that were not ideal.

“I think part of it came from their defense,” Brookfield coach Shawn Hammond said. “They played great tonight. They had good pressure, they stuck our offense way out where we can’t start our offense and a lot of credit goes to them. Our kids played hard. I thought our first series we had when we got in there, we had some wide open and we missed them. It had a lot to do with their defense, I give them credit. It was a nice job.”

In the first half, South Range (22-3) scored the first points of the game and never gave up the lead. By the end of the first quarter, the Raiders were on top by a seven-point margin.

Brookfield was held to a mere two points in the second quarter, enlarging South Range’s lead to 21-9. South Range also caused 11 turnovers in the first half.

The Warriors played a zone defense most of the game to try contain South Range’s Starla Sharp and Sara Durr inside, which opened up the guards to light up the court. Morgan Czopur connected on three shots from beyond the arc and went a perfect 6 of 6 at the line for 15 points. Sharp added 11 points.

“We like to go against zone better than man because we can get more shots off,” Czopur said. “We can space it out more. So I feel like we moved the ball well tonight.”

Hammond knows the girls have played great defense all year, but the shots just weren’t falling. He also attributes the huge deficit in the first as part of the reason for the loss.

“Defensively, we have played solid all year,” Hammond said. “If we do anything, our kids play defense. They don’t give up 50, 60 points a game. Our struggles sometimes come within our own selves. Running our own offense or not having a good shooting night. Defensively though, we’ve played well. I think they got up too many in the first quarter.”

Brooke Hiner led Brookfield with seven points and Lauren Hawley contributed five.

The Raiders take on Ursuline on Saturday in the Division III district final game.