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Bristol rolls past Lordstown

LORDSTOWN — Some teams have to go through rebuilding, while others simply reload.

Lordstown coach John Wolford is taking over a Red Devils team that graduated six seniors, while Bristol coach John King is replacing three seniors from a team that played in a Division IV district semifinal just a year ago.

“We would have loved to have played better,” Wolford said. “We’re young right now. These girls didn’t get a lot of playing time last year. We have two girls who have never played before. We have another coming back after a two-year layoff. We’re finding our way right now.”

Those growing pains were evident as the Panthers ran out to a 19-point lead after one quarter en route to a 70-26 win in Northeastern Athletic Conference play.

“Lordstown had a great team last year,” King said. “They’ve been one of the premier teams in our league for a lot of years. The score doesn’t indicate it but they play hard. They’ll be fine if they keep working.”

The opening quarter was a positive sign for King to see after the Panthers were beaten 70-47 to the Liberty Leopards on Saturday night.

“The big problem with our first game was we had jitters and got a bit shell shocked against a very good Liberty team,” King said. “We got down 14-0 to them, so the emphasis was having the attitude of coming out from the start with the right energy level and wanting to win. We wanted to get off to a good start.”

Belle Zirzow was instrumental in Bristol getting off to that good start as she had 15 of her game-high 24 points in the opening quarter. She added 13 rebounds to finish with a double double.

“Belle is a sophomore,” King said. “Most of our starters are sophomores. She is going to be a very good player. She puts in a lot of work outside of what we do. It shows out there. She has gotten better every year. She’s a joy to coach. There’s still a lot of growth. When we need a score, she does help us. She finds a way to put it in for us.”

Jaylyn Mullenax and Brittany Mooney added 14 and 12 points respectfully as the Panthers built out a 41-8 lead at the half.

“That’s an outstanding basketball team,” Wolford said. “They’re going to make a lot of noise as the season goes on. They shoot the ball and run the court well. With eight girls, they just ran us off the court.”

Those four sophomores who played a lot last year clicked shooting 57 percent from the floor while holding the Red Devils to just two field goals in that opening half.

“We’re uncertain on how we’ll do, being so young,” King said. “They did have some experience. This group of girls has been winning coming up through so they are a good core, but they are going to be challenged mentally. There are a lot of things they have experienced yet. They are still figuring it out.”

The Red Devils got some ball movement going in the second half and we’re able to get good looks at the basket which resulted in 11 points in the final eight minutes of play.

“I was really encouraged by the effort in the second half,” Wolford said. “We played a lot better. We didn’t win the quarters but we got it within a bucket or two.”

Emily Knox led Lordstown with 10 points with Ava Spana and Lexie Drewek each adding eight apiece.

“It is what it is,” Wolford said. “We’re honest about where we are right now. We’re very unfortunate that we start with three or four difficult games. We have a few matchups that we like down the line. Lordstown is a school graduating 40 kids. It’s a numbers game.”

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