Fighting the most difficult part of the season’s schedule, Twinsburg’s girls basketball team held their own against stronghold Aurora.
Twinsburg lost 63-50 in the cross-division home game Saturday as Aurora had to use a 14-4 spurt in the final period to create separation from the stubborn hosts.
It was a solid performance by the Tigers (6-13), who were without 1,000-point scorer Alana Ellis, who is out for the season with a knee injury.
The Tigers showed that they were very competitive against Aurora, which could be the team’s eventual sectional final opponent as Twinsburg moves into the Ravenna Division I sectional-district this season.
Aurora, which recently won its fourth straight Suburban League American Conference title in a row, was the third seed in the Ravenna field behind Stow-Munroe Falls and top-seed Warren Harding.
"We did a very good job defensively at times against Aurora," said Twinsburg head coach Jess Rader.
As the 11th seed, Twinsburg opens sectional play in the first round Saturday against sixth seed Warren Howland. Tip-off is set for 1 p.m. at Howland.
If the Tigers beat Howland, Twinsburg will play that Ravenna sectional final at Aurora (15-6) on Feb. 20 at 7 p.m.
"We moved to a new district and we are a much lower seed than Twinsburg is used to," explained Rader, as Twinsburg had been commuting to Euclid for the first two rounds.
Howland, 11-9, is young, but has one huge cog returning from last year’s 17-7 squad in guard Alyssa Pompelia.
A sophomore sharp shooter, Pompelia has 3-point range and is supported by guard Ashley Chambers, forward Courtney Clark, point guard Maria Dellimuti, post Jamie DeSalvo, and forward Gillian Powell.
"I think we have a good opportunity to show people we can compete against good teams and we showed that against Aurora," said Rader.
In fact, the Aurora clash was the second in as many days against championship clubs in the Suburban League – Twinsburg lost 67-44 at Stow Friday (17-2, 13-0), which won its fourth straight National Conference title.
It was a hectic week as Twinsburg also fell 53-32 in a league game at Wadsworth (12-9, 9-4) Wednesday and posted a big 48-32 non-league win against Mentor (12-8) Feb. 3.
"Obviously, we knew this would be a rough two weeks and this week was tough, especially without Alana," said Rader, whose club is 5-10 in the SL with the home finale set for Wednesday against Hudson.
Twinsburg had a chance to cut a deficit to Aurora to three points in the final minute of the third period, but suffered a costly turnover.
Then senior guard Faith Gregory buried a deep 3-point bomb as the buzzer sounded to cut Aurora’s lead to 42-37 heading into the fourth quarter.
That’s when the Greenmen’s offense exploded for 21 points, 11 by all-star Shyanne Sellers and eight points by hustling guard Dylynn Lasky.
Committing just seven turnovers the entire game gave Twinsburg the opportunity to compete against Aurora.
So did the play of junior guard Jada Austin.
It wasn’t Austin offense, but yet it was her stellar defense that propelled the Tigers to play so well against Aurora.
Sure, Austin pumped in a game-high 24 points, including 15 in the second half, but it was her defense that sparked the Tigers.
"Our defense was very good and Jada was extremely good," noted Rader, who used the 5-foot-6 Austin to guard Sellers, who is 6-2.
"Jada was giving up about six inches or more to Sellers, but she did a great job for us," added Rader.
Austin, who nailed a trio of 3-pointers and excelled against the stout defense of Lasky, guarded Sellers well from the perimeter. Sellers, who was held to just seven points through three quarters, had 18 points.
However, it was the hustling play of Lasky (14 points and seven boards), who hurt Twinsburg in the fourth period.
After Gregory’s three at the buzzer at the end of the third period, Lasky had an offensive rebound and a screen to set up a triple by Sellers, who helped Aurora to a 9-2 run and a 51-39 lead with 4:35 left.
Lasky then drilled a 3-pointer and converted a layup to extend the comfortable lead to 56-41 with 3:02 remaining. That capped a devastating 14-4 Aurora run.
Gregory and Austin kept Twinsburg in the contest.
Pouring in 15 points, Gregory looked more for her shot as the Tigers’ point guard. The speedster hit three treys, dished out three assists, had three rebounds, and two thefts.
"Faith had a great game offensively for us," said Rader, who has sought scoring help for Austin without the services of Ellis.
"Obviously Faith usually distributes the ball for us and she does not shoot often, but she really stepped up and scored well," pointed out Rader.
Senior post Alex Walker added four points and five boards while junior Nighyah Carthen snagged six caroms.
"I thought limited turnovers by making good decisions on offense," explained Rader. "Faith and Jada got the ball inside and we moved the ball around well. Sellers is so long at the top (of Aurora’s 1-2-2 zone defense) and can create problems."
Aurora wing Ava Ryncarz gave her club a fantastic start by drilling three triples and putting in 11 first quarter points as Aurora led 19-14.
Sellers didn’t score until she had a driving layup with 43 seconds left in the opening period.
Ryncarz ended with 15 points and four threes while guard Mika Dalton popped in nine points and 6-2 center Eliza Wykoff added three points, six boards, and blocked four shots.
In the loss to Stow, Austin netted 17 points, Gregory had nine, and freshman forward Genesis Carthen had seven.
Austin put in 16 at Wadsworth while Nighyah Carthen grabbed seven boards and had two points.
In the victory over Mentor, Austin exploded for 20 points. Sophomore wing Logan Pride scored 11 points.