A new-look Twinsburg girls basketball team opened the 2018-19 campaign in impressive fashion as head coach Jess Mazanetz secured her first victory as the Tigers’ new mentor.
Fueled by defense and big-time perimeter shooting, the Lady Tigers posted a 61-37 in the season and the Suburban League opener at Cuyahoga Falls Saturday.
"Being our first game, I did not quite know what to expect from our execution, but I thought it was very good," said Mazanetz.
This season Mazanetz looks to keep the ball rolling after replacing longtime coach Julie Solis as Twinsburg went 13-11 a year ago.
A four-year player at Hiram College and a Crestwood graduate, Mazanetz was the varsity assistant for Crestwood for the last four years. She was the junior varsity coach at Aurora for one year and a varsity assistant at Akron Springfield for two years.
The energetic Mazanetz is also Twinsburg's volleyball head coach. She takes over from Julie Solis (319-106), who joined the Tigers in 2009 and guided Twinsburg to the Division I state titles in 2011 and 2012, while finishing as the Division I state runner-up in 2013.
"There has been a little bit of a learning curve with the girls adjusting to a new system and me learning about them, but overall, we are coming along nicely," said Mazanetz.
Joining Mazanetz on the new coaching staff is varsity assistant Danee Pinckney and junior varsity coach James Dianetti.
In fact, many aspects of the game may mirror the previous coaching staff as Twinsburg's strengths continue to be quickness, athleticism, defense and transition basketball.
"We will run an up-tempo offense and pressure on defense," she emphasized. "We want to be able to use our speed to our advantage."
Twinsburg lost two graduate post players in Trinity Carthen and Brittany Jolly, plus All-NEO Inland District honorable mention guard Nya Bussey and starting sophomore guard Kayla White are gone.
Bussey, a gifted track star and a Division I college prospect, made the difficult decision not to play, according to Mazanetz, and White transferred to another school district.
In all, four players with starting experience return and five total lettermen are back.
Three returning starters include junior Alana Ellis, senior Brittany Williams and senior Kyndall Hill.
Veteran senior letterman Bri Jones also is back as is sophomore Jada Austin, who has some starting experience.
Returning for the Lady Tigers is All-District honoree Alana Ellis, a versatile 5-foot, 11-inch guard.
A shooter with streaky-hot stretches, Ellis shoots three-pointers and can score in bunches. She was a special mention pick in the district and can play at several spots, and help in the paint as well.
Last year, Ellis averaged 13.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1.4 steals, 1.0 assists and 1.0 blocked shots a game.
"Alana is one of the hardest workers I have seen and we go as she goes," said Mazanetz.
Both Hill and Williams have their share of starts in their career while returning sophomore guard Jada Austin does as well.
Williams is a solid point guard who added 1.6 points, 1.3 boards, 1.1 assists, and 1.0 thefts a fame. The 5-3 Williams also is a good leader.
"Brittany is experienced and she is scrappy and can handle the ball for us," said the coach.
The 5-10 Hill creates good post angles to score down low on the block, but is known for her defense and rebounding, which will be key.
"Kyndall works her butt off inside and has good experience," said Mazanetz.
Another experienced player is Jones, a 5-11 forward who can play out on the wing.
A guard-forward, Jones has the potential to help in several aspects with her size and athletic ability. She added 1.4 points, 2.3 boards, and 1.0 steals.
"Bri (Jones) is a rock for us," offered Mazanetz.
Austin (5-5) is a solid shooter, who can shoot three 3-pointers, but who can hurt you with mid-range jumpers as well.
Last year, Austin scored 5.7 points, 2.7 boards, 1.5 steals, and 1.0 assists a game. She will have a much larger role this season.
"Jada can shoot and she is a point guard with experience," said Mazanetz.
A trio of newcomers had brief stints with the varsity last year, but primarily played JV ball and they include senior guard Bria Griffin (5-5), junior guard Faith Gregory (5-3), and junior forward Alex Walker (5-7).
Other newcomers are JV products Sonyea Moore (5-11) and Nigyah Carthen (5-10), who offer size off the bench.
Another bright newcomer is freshman Logan Pride, an athletic 5-8 wing who can help at several spots. She has the quickness of a guard and is long as well.
In the opener at Falls (1-1), Pride scored a career high five points, had three boards, and a 3-pointer.
"We had contributions off the bench and I think Logan will be very good as she is athletic with good skills, and is long as well," said Mazanetz.
Missing two starters, Falls struggled against the Tigers’ quickness on defense.
Ellis poured in 25 points and also grabbed eight boards, had four steals, two assists, and one block.
More importantly, Ellis showed her improvement on defense as she held standout Falls guard Chelsea Huffman to just four field goals. Huffman finished with 19 points.
"Ellis has worked extremely hard on her defense and it shows — she also played the entire game," said Mazanetz, whose club forced 23 turnovers.
Falls used a 1-2-2 half court zone to test the Tigers’ outside shooting and Twinsburg passed with flying colors with Ellis and Austin, who buried three treys, had 14 points and four steals.
"We didn't prepare for that zone because [Falls] had never shown it, but that was great to see how we adjusted so well to it," said Mazanetz.
Hill added five points, eight boards, and two steals while the Tigers got solid play from Jones (four points, seven boards), Williams (four points, two feeds), Pride and Walker (four points).
Converting a gorgeous reverse layup, Hill made it 37-13 with 5:40 left in the third quarter.
Twinsburg hosts North Royalton Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. and hosts Brecksville-Broadview Heights Saturday at 2:30 p.m.