Girard, Trebella hold on to top Niles

Tribune Chronicle / Eric Murray Girard’s Samantha Cave, left, shoots a free throw while teammate Saralynn Essad, right, and Niles’ Dakota Naples, middle, prepare to rebound during their game Wednesday. Girard won, 50-39.

GIRARD — Girard’s Makayla Trebella started strong and finished strong, on her way to a game-high 20 points, as she led her Girard Indians to a 50-39 season-opening victory over Niles on Wednesday night.

Trebella scored six points in the first quarter and helped slam the door shut on Niles in the fourth quarter with nine points.

“Since I’ve been a freshman, I’ve been starting on varsity,” Trebella said. “Really, just the experience of being on varsity is what made me into the player I am today.”

The Indians came out furious in the first quarter, as they held the Red Dragons scoreless in the period. Megan Payich had five of her 11 points in the quarter, to go along with Trebella’s six.

However, things dramatically changed in the second quarter. Niles, trailing 17-0 to start, began an 8-0 run, thanks to two Kenzi Johnston free throws and back-to-back 3-pointers by Dakota Naples.

Tribune Chronicle / Eric Murray Niles’ Amanda Blank, left, dribbles while being pressured by Girard’s Makayla Trebella during their game Wednesday. Girard won, 50-39.

The quarter turned into a shootout, as both teams began to trade baskets back and forth. A pair of Lindsay Hayes layups and a Madison Johnson jumper closed the deficit to 24-19 with 1:47 left before half. Trebella countered with a 3-pointer to extend the lead to eight, but Amanda Blank and Sierra Werden added jumpers for the Dragons late in the period, making it a 27-23 Girard lead at half.

“I thought we came out of the game with a lot of intensity right out of the gate,” Girard coach Andy Saxon said. “Our girls played really good defense, we shut a couple of their (Niles’) scorers down. We kinda worried about their outside game, their outside shooting.

“So, that worked for us (but in) the second quarter they came out and started hitting some shots. But I give our girls credit, we came back out in the third quarter and showed a lot intensity again and we were able to shut them down, defensively.”

After allowing 23 points in the second quarter to the Red Dragons, Girard’s defense tightened up by allowing just six points in the third quarter, as the two teams combined for just 15 points in the period.

Girard (1-0) carried a 36-29 lead into the fourth quarter, and much like the third period, Niles could not capitalize on a number of opportunities to take control of the game. Naples was able to close the gap to five with a free throw and a 3-pointer, but Trebella became too much to handle.

She went to the line 16 times in the game and made 6-of-8 free throws in the fourth quarter. For Niles (0-1) coach Doug Foster, the night was a learning experience for a young Red Dragons team.

“You can’t spot teams 17-0, and try to come back and win,” Foster said. “Even when it was 30-27, we had five, six stops in a row, and we couldn’t put the ball in the basket. (Down) 40-37, three-point game, five straight stops and we can’t finish.

“They (Girard) made foul shots down the road and we don’t finish shots, we missed three layups down here in a five-point game. After being down 17, I’m proud of my girls, they battled. It’s a long season, we know what we gotta do. It’s tough to win on the road when you spot somebody 17.”

As for Girard, it returns essentially two players with real varsity experience in Trebella and Payich, both of whom are four-year letterwinners. The two players, who combined for 31 points on the night, will be expected to step up and lead a young Indians team with a lot of uncertainty going into this season.

“They (coaches) expect a lot from us and they expect us to be the leaders of the team, right now,” Trebella said. “(The coaches will) bring up the people who don’t have the experience, to get experience. (Megan and I have to) teach them, help them out and lead them to success.”