Unexpected surge

Garfield’s big second-half run vaults G-Men over Panthers

Staff photo / Brad Emerine Bristol’s Brittany Mooney, center, tries to beat the Garfield trio of Sarah Seaman, left, Caitlin Lutz, back, and Grace Mills, right, for a layup. Garfield beat Bristol, 61-51, in a non-league game Monday night.

GARRETTSVILLE — Both high school girls basketball coaches expected and anticipated there would be runs when Bristol played a non-league contest at Garfield on Monday night.

The G-Men and Panthers play a similar brand of basketball, with full-court defensive pressure being at the forefront and aggressive offenses on counter attacks after breaking defensive pressure.

While there were some small runs in the tilt, no one expected to see one lengthy, decisive scoring spree.

That proved to be the difference in Garfield’s 61-51 victory as a 16-point run enabled the G-Men to improve their record to 10-4 overall.

Trailing 25-20 at halftime and 29-20 early in the second half, Bristol used buckets by Brooke Songer and Brittany Mooney, and Bella Zirzow’s hoop and 3-pointer tied the score with 4:45 left in the third quarter.

Staff photo / Brad Emerine Bristol’s Jalyn Mullenix, left, and Garfield’s Madeline Shirkey battle for position for a rebound.

“After (Bristol) made that nice run coming out in the second half to even the game, we really turned up the pressure a bit and started hitting some of our shots,” Garfield coach Aaron Gilbert said. “We started taking advantage of some of second-chance opportunities as well and we were getting out in transition.

“Our shots weren’t falling early, but then they just started going in. It was nice to see the girls stick to it.”

Sarah Seaman started the 16-0 run with a 3-pointer midway through the third period and capped it with 7:02 left in the fourth quarter with another 3-pointer to make the score 45-29.

“Sarah is one of those girls who can really shoot it when she’s on and she had a couple open looks and knocked them down,” Gilbert said.

Bristol, which fell to 8-6 overall, wasn’t about to give in though.

After Zirzow ended the drought with a putback, Brooklyn Swiger made a 3-pointer and Zirzow scored from the paint to make it 47-38 with 5:02 left.

The differential teetered between nine and 11 most of the way from there, although Zirzow’s 3-pointer with 1:53 left got Bristol within 54-46.

“That 16-0 run was tough because we missed three or four layups and some other wide-open shots,” Panthers coach John King said. “We had opportunities. What hurt us was that our misses were turning into defensive rebounds and transition points against us. There’ going to be runs the way we play. As a matter of fact, we have similar styles, so it was a fun game to watch with all the defensive pressure, transition and forced turnovers.

“We took a timeout and told the girls, ‘now it’s our turn to make a run.’ We did. We got back within eight and I was happy to see that. It would’ve been easy to pack it in right there. We’re on the road, playing a very good team and they hit us in the face with that run. But the girls didn’t quit. We kept battling.”

The hosts led 10-5 after one period and 25-20 at halftime, as Grace Mills scored 12 of her team-high 18 points before intermission and also finished with a team-high 11 rebounds.

“Usually, when we start fast we can keep that steady pace that’s working,” said Mills, who did not play in the teams’ meeting last season due to a concussion. “But we had to settle down our passing and get our legs back under us after (Bristol) tied it up there. We started playing better defense and getting our hands on a lot of passes and getting those steals.

“The best thing was our whole team got involved, and we’re pretty good when we do that. I think we can still step it up even more defensively.”

Jenna Smith supplied 14 points, Trinity Williamson tallied six of her nine points in the fourth period and Seaman added eight points.

Madeline Shirkey scored six points and grabbed six rebounds.

“Early in the game, we were out of position to rebound and kind of got in a funk where we weren’t trying to rebound,” Gilbert said. “But when Madeline Shirkey comes in, it makes a huge difference in our rebounding. She just sparks us. She has that ‘it’ factor coming off the bench and you really can’t explain it. But it energizes us. She could probably be starting, but then we don’t get that spark coming off the bench.”

Zirzow had a game-high 21 points and had eight rebounds for the Panthers. Mooney and Swiger both scored 10 points.

“We knew this would be a challenge, but we’ve tried to beef our schedule the past few years,” King said. “We’ve played Liberty, Champion and LaBrae who all were in district finals or the regionals last year. Garfield expects to be at district finals or regionals.

“We’re really trying to bump up the competition so we’re ready for the tournament. I don’t think our record reflects how good we are. Yes, we could have a lot better record, but that wouldn’t help the girls improve. We’re young, and competition makes you grow. Playing these teams will help in the long run. We can’t get challenged like this in practices and sometimes not in the league either.”