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Springfield cruises past McDonald

Correspondent photo / Lowell Spencer Springfield’s Grace LaMorticella (13) looks for an open teammate as McDonald’s Lea Gabrelcik plays defense.

NEW MIDDLETOWN — The Springfield Tigers needed a bounce-back game following two consecutive losses. They responded with a hard-fought 70-58 victory over a much-improved McDonald Blue Devils team in a key MVAC contest.

The victory improves the Tigers to 11-3 on the season, 6-2 in the MVAC. The Blue Devils fall to 6-5 on the year, 3-3 in the league.

“This game means a lot actually. It helps our confidence since we lost the last couple of games,” Tigers senior guard Kaila LaMorticella said. “This game definitely got our heads back on track and we are ready to keep it going.”

The Tigers held a slim 2-point advantage at the intermission but exploded with a 12-0 run to start the second half to seize the momentum and put the contest away.

Following a fast-paced first half that saw the Tigers’ largest lead grow as large as eight points, the Tigers turned up the intensity even more to start the third period. They would force the Devils into committing three consecutive turnovers while LaMorticella and Madison Lesnak both knocked down threes to race out to a 46-32 lead at the 5:41 mark of the stanza.

“The first four minutes. That was the ball game right there,” Blue Devils coach Tony Matisi exclaimed. “They converted a couple three’s and just like that, it got out of hand. That was a learning experience. You can’t compound one mistake with another. But we will be ok.”

The Tigers would stretch their advantage out to a commanding 20-point margin of 59-39 with 2:01 left in the third quarter when Jacey Mullen laid the ball in the net following a rebound. She would score a game-high 21 points in the contest while grabbing 12 rebounds.

But the Devils would not go away quietly as they closed the third quarter with a 9-2 run to make it a 13-point contest at 61-48. They would also outscore the Tigers 10-9 in the final frame of the game to reach the 12-point final margin.

“We are getting better and better every game,” Matisi said. “A lot of young kids are out here learning. It’s pretty exciting from where we started. It is fun to watch them start understanding the game a little bit. We weren’t even competitive the first time and we probably played our best offensive game tonight.”

“They were a lot better than they were when we played them the first time,” Springfield coach John Matisi added. “Obviously, you have to give them a ton of credit. I feel like we took their best shot tonight and we played a very good game to get the win.”

The Devils and Tigers traded baskets early in the game before the Tigers went on a 6-0 run to go up 10-4 midway through the period. The Tigers would go on to hold a 16-11 lead at the end of the first quarter.

The Devils would close the deficit to 20-19 with 4:56 remaining in the second period when Alvia Morrison drove to the basket and laid it in for two of her game-high 21 points. The Tigers responded with a 9-2 run to go back ahead by 8-points at 29-21 with 3:23 remaining in the first half.

“We kind of harped on them the past few days about getting back to the basics,” John Matisi said. “Our rotations were good, and our ball pressure was good. And we like to run so we like to press and get the game going up and down. We feel like we have the horses to get out and go.”

The Devils would once again cut the deficit down to a single point with just 15-seconds left in the half when Lucia Wolford hit a jumper. A converted free throw by Mullen staked the Tigers to a two-point advantage going into the break.

The Tigers will return to the court next Wednesday when they play at Hubbard. The Blue Devils will try to bounce back themselves when they play at Lowellville this Saturday afternoon.

sports@tribtoday.com

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