By Bryant Billing
Sidney Daily News
SIDNEY — Lehman Catholic’s girls basketball team is trying to get into a rhythm, while Riverside’s squad is trying to get back into the rhythm it was in earlier this year.
Lehman took a step towards its goal in a Northwest Central Conference game on Thursday in Sidney. The Cavaliers took control in the second quarter and solidified their lead late in a 60-45 victory.
It was the third game in a week’s time for Lehman (4-3, 1-1 NWCC), which didn’t play a game for nearly two weeks earlier in December. Lehman coach Craig Hall said the team is trying to play consistently.
“We’re starting to see the floor a little bit better, and we’re starting to get some chemistry,” Hall said. “That’s what I was just telling the girls in the locker room after the game. We’re doing a better job of moving. We just have to do a better job of taking care of the ball and not doing ticky-tack things like in the fourth quarter tonight.”
It’s the second consecutive loss for the Pirates (4-3, 3-1), who were without leading scorer Dana Jones for the second straight game. Jones has been ill this week and didn’t play in a loss on Monday at Cedarville.
“I’m proud of their effort,” Riverside coach Bryce Hodge said. “With (Jones) being sick, it’s tough right now. We’re really just playing with six varsity players. …I’m proud of the girls, though. They always fight.”
Lehman went on a 12-2 run in the second quarter to take control and led 32-21 at halftime. The Cavaliers opened the third quarter on an 8-0 run to take a 19-point lead, but the Pirates scored the next nine to close the gap to 10.
Lauryn Sanford hit a 3-pointer to pull Riverside within 42-34 early in the fourth quarter, but Lehman extended the lead late from the free-throw line.
Courtnie Smith made two free throws for Riverside to cut the lead to 49-39 with 4:55 left, but Lauren McFarland and Grace Olding each made 2-of-2 free throws to extend the lead to 14 with 4:49 left. Grace Monnin hit a 3 with 4:17 left to put the Cavaliers up 55-41, and Riverside couldn’t pull closer than 13 after that.
Both teams racked up the fouls late, and three Riverside starters fouled out. Lehman made 12-of-20 free throws in the fourth quarter while the Pirates made 7-of-10.
“That’s the longest fourth quarter I’ve ever been a part of,” Hall said. “It shouldn’t have a been that way. But we did a decent job of hitting our free throws down the stretch and took care of the ball.
“I’m proud of the girls. They play hard, and they’re starting to gel. That’s what I’m after.”
Carly Edwards led Lehman with 12 points while Monnin and Anna Cianciolo each added 10. McFarland finished with nine while Rylie McIver added eight. Hope Anthony led Lehman with six rebounds while Edwards had three steals and one block.
The Cavaliers dropped to 2-3 with a loss at Xenia Legacy Christian last Saturday but have won two straight. They’ll play again next Thursday at Houston.
“I think we’ll be fun to watch once we get towards the end of the season,” Hall said. “… We’re starting to hit a little bit of a stride, but now we’ve got Christmas break and just one game before (January). Houston’s been a dogfight for us that last couple of years, so we’ll see how that goes. We’ve got to come out and play hard.”
Shelby Giles led Riverside with 17 points and six rebounds and Sanford finished with 12 points and a team-high five assists.
“This is our best start as a program in a while, and it’s all because of the girls,” Hodge said. “They’re buying in and working hard. At the start of the season, they and I had a different understanding of working hard. Once they understood my definition, things started to come together. They’re putting in the work and the effort, and I’m proud of them. That’s why we’re in most of our games.”
The Pirates led early. Giles hit a 3-pointer from the left wing with 5:22 left in the first quarter to put Riverside ahead 7-2, but the Cavaliers quickly stormed back. Edwards hit two free throws, then McFarland made a 3 from the right wing to tie it 7-7 with 4:02 left.
“One we get into a rhythm, things will start go gel,” Hall said. “Our Achilles heel all season has been starting out. We’re a slow starting team. I’m trying to find what that right answer is for us to start quicker. Even in the games we’ve lost, I think we’d win if we’d have started quicker.”
Monnin made a basket with eight seconds left after a steal to give the Cavaliers a 15-13 lead. Lehman then went on a big run early in the second to take control.
McIver made a 3 from the right wing to put Lehman ahead 20-15, then Cianciolo made a basket to extend the lead to seven points.
Edwards made three consecutive baskets in a 50-second span — two of which came soon after Riverside turnovers — to increase the lead to 30-17 with 1:15 left.