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Howland topples Poland

Correspondent photo / Howland sophomore Alyssa Massucci (left) drives in on Poland's Katie McDonald. Massucci scored 12 points for the Tigers in their 66-52 road victory Monday night.

POLAND — When there’s an opportunity to pick up some last minute credence with the tournament just on the Horizon, you have to take it.

For Howland, going into Monday’s evening contest was no small task, especially coming off a heartbreaking loss to Canfield on Saturday at home for a share of the AAC title and now having to travel to Poland, a traditional powerhouse who came into the night with a 17-2 record.

Consider the challenge accepted for the Tigers, who used an early lead mixed with balanced scoring with five players in double-figures scoring wise to earn a 66-52 road victory against the Bulldogs.

Starting off on a 10-0 run is always a preferred way to start an evening, but mentally rebounding after a tough weekend was an even greater importance for Howland (15-6).

“The way these girls came out and put that game behind them, and responded tonight was nothing short of amazing,” said Tigers coach Aaron Pounds “Kudos to them, I’m very proud of them.”

A pair of Taylor Lawrence (11 points) three-pointers helped set the tempo early, as Howland hit four threes in the first quarter where it led 22-8 and held Poland to three field goals, the first of which came on a Mary Brant trey on the left side of the arc at the 2:10 mark in the quarter.

The strong shooting performance didn’t slow down in the second frame, as an Alyssa Massucci (12 points) three induced a Poland timeout following an 8-0 run to begin the quarter. Howland eventually took a 43-23 lead into the locker room.

Poland (17-3) wasn’t ready to go out without swinging, as it began to find some success within the post, with Katie McDonald and Connie Cougras helping to lead the Bulldogs charge, eventually cutting the lead to 13 points at 43-30.

Lawrence eventually concluded the Tigers’ scoring drought with a pair of made free throws at the 3:33 mark, which was soon followed up by a Kylie McClain (13 points) and-1. Fellow senior Alyssa Pompelia scored six of her 13 points during the fourth quarter to help secure the victory for the visiting Tigers, with Jamie DeSalvo adding 12 points.

Having balanced scoring is what opens some eyes with Howland’s offense.

“Teams can’t just focus on one player on our team because we all contribute,” Pompelia said. “I think that it benefits us more and I think that going into the playoffs and our last regular season game (at Nordonia) it’ll help us a lot with our confidence as well.”

As much as having a large lead on the outset of the basketball game helped, weathering Poland’s second half storm was just as vital, but there’s always lessons to be learned in having to face some adversity late in the year.

“We needed that momentum, because we knew that (Poland) could shoot the ball, we were shooting the ball really well in the first half,” McClain said. “They came back, we made runs, they made runs, we needed that especially going into playoffs, we have a hard game Wednesday versus Nordonia, hopefully we beat Madison in the tournament, and then we could see Canfield again, so we needed it.”

Poland senior Morgan Kluchar finished with a game-high 15 points, with Abby Farber, McDonald and Brant all scoring eight.

With an Northeast-8 title under their belts preparation for the tournament underway, Bulldogs coach Nick Blanch purposely schedules tough competition in the days leading up to the postseason.

To be one of the best, you have to beat some of the best, but even after falling behind early, Blanch applauded the effort his players had during the second half.

“That’s what I’m most proud of, two things I can’t stand, selfish people and pouters, I can’t stand it because neither do anything to help the team, so in my opinion, tonight we showed that we’re a true team,” Blanch said. “Everybody was cheering for one another, we continued to play, it didn’t matter what the scoreboard said all the way to the final buzzer.

“I’m just very proud of our seniors for leading the way the way they did tonight, they led by example, they didn’t pout, nobody else did, and we played as good as we could. It was just a slow start that got us tonight, but that happens.”

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