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Struthers starts strong, tops Hubbard

STRUTHERS — Bill Neider loved how his team started the game.

Scott Slovesko is still trying to figure out why his team continues to get off to slow starts.

When the dust settled and 37 fouls had been called, the Struthers Wildcats avenged an earlier loss to the Hubbard Eagles as they slipped past the Eagles, 42-34 in a Northeast 8 Conference matchup.

“It’s that quarter that comes back to bite us again,” Slovesko said. “It’s every game. We’re switching some things up at practice. One of my coaches made a joke that maybe we should get to the gym before, play a quarter before we even leave, and get on the bus. We don’t know.

“I attribute a lot of it to being young. We’re still growing as a team. Maybe that’s the reason for the slow starts, but you gotta tip your hat to them. They came out and they played really well tonight.”

That they did with Chloe Neider’s two 3s along with one from Faith Stellato that allowed the Wildcats (8-6, 6-3) to run out to a 12-2 lead after one quarter.

“I thought we really came out and set the tone a little bit,” Bill Neider said. “Because of that, it led to some good offense and some good looks. It always helps when you knock down that first 3 or get that first basket.”

Neider and Stellato paced Struthers with 17 and 13 points respectively.

Hubbard (6-6, 3-6) clawed back into the game scoring the first three points of the second quarter, but saw Struthers respond with a 12-5 run to make it 24-10 with less than three minutes left in the first half.

Though, the Eagles came firing back finishing out the half on a 7-0 run to make it 24-17 at the half.

“I think a lot of times when we start getting leads and this is where we got to grow as a team as we learn to play with that lead,” Neider said. “We start self- destructing a little bit. I think it starts with the basketball IQ; making some better decisions, not trying to force the ball, and relaxing when the other teams are putting pressure on us.

“That’s kind of been something we’ve been working on all year. We’re getting better. We still have a little way to go but we just need to be smarter with the basketball.”

The second half started much like the first two quarters with Struthers building out another double digit lead, this time 31-17 after a Carlee Rhodes bucket.

Again, though, the Eagles battled back with a 9-0 run to make it 31-26 heading to the fourth quarter with Slovesko and Sophie Murphy scoring all the Hubbard points.

Slovesko finished with 12 points while Murphy had 10.

“We started pushing the ball a little bit more,” Slovesko said. “We started swinging the ball a little bit and we hit some shots. When you hit some shots, that opens some things up.

Rebounding was huge with Hubbard controlling the glass 29 to 16.

“Peytyn killed it on the boards for us,” Slovesko said. “Foul trouble at the late end there but hitting some shots and the penetration helped us.”

In the fourth quarter, both teams ended up in the bonus but it was the Wildcats that did enough at the charity stripe as Slovesko fouled out and Struthers calmly made 7-of-10 from the free throw line.

Neider knew the Eagles would have to continue to be aggressive as his team never allowed them to get closer than five in the final quarter.

“One of the things that we did was, we kept the ball in Chloe’s hand, who’s our best ball handler, best free throw shooter and just kind of kept screening her to get them off,” Neider said. “They really didn’t want to foul her. They did a couple times. They were looking to foul other people. We were content with winning at the free throw line.”

The Eagles got hurt on the glass in the fourth quarter after winning that battle for the first three quarters.

Hubbard couldn’t get to the line either (2-of-3 in the quarter) and only had seven field goals in the final eight minutes.

“We made that run there,” Slovesko said. “We had a couple of opportunities where we just turned the ball over or we missed a shot and then they had a good box out or the ball just didn’t bounce our way. In those kinds of games, we got to get those 50/50 balls.”

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