Twinsburg girls basketball seizes first win of season

Steve Batko
Correspondent

Continuing to strive for strong footing in a challenging season, the youthful Twinsburg girls basketball squad received a reward for the flexibility and work that has been put in by the kids and the coaching staff.

With a new staff and a slew of first-year varsity contributors and with athletes taking on larger roles, this season would have been difficult enough without a pandemic.

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Twinsburg earned its first win of the season as did first-year head coach Heath Savage as the Tigers took down North Royalton 37-32 in a league road trip Jan. 25.

It was a win that also enabled the Lady Tigers to tally their first Suburban League win this season in the National Conference.

Twinsburg then had to face red-hot Stow-Munroe Falls Saturday and the Bulldogs won their 12th straight game 57-27 to move to 6-0 in the league this winter.

Despite the loss at Stow (13-1 overall), Twinsburg was still reeling from the positive energy of a victory earlier in the week.

“That was an important one,” said Savage, alluding to the hard-earned win over the Bears.

“Our girls did a great job and I think we started to catch up a lot on conditioning for the season,” explained Savage, whose club has had to endure a pause and a slew of scheduling adjustments. “It has been a challenging season.”

“With the situation and all of the changes, plus coming in late this season to start, it has been a very strange season. The kids are working hard and our conditioning is getting better. It’s tough because not everyone goes through the process the same way.”

Paced again by the talented duo of guard Jada Austin and wing Logan Pride, Twinsburg got some quality buckets against a scrappy North Royalton unit.

The Tigers defense was outstanding as the Bears (1-16) only had a few baskets the entire game, besides all-star Kaitlyn Bockelman, who exploded for a game-high 25 points.

A 14-6 fourth quarter by Twinsburg keyed the win. Pride had 15 points and Austin tallied 14, unofficially.

“Our conditioning was good as we worked hard and the girls’ execution was sharp and we were able to sustain the energy, and that was good to see,” said Savage.

Twinsburg battled at Stow and was able to complete a strong second quarter. The Bulldogs just edged the Tigers 12-9 in the period as Pride heated up with six points.

The athletic Pride grabbed a steal against Stow and traveled the distance of the court to convert a left-handed layup. Pride had eight rebounds and two steals to go with eight points – all coming in the first half.

Stow’s defense and superb passing – nearly each bucket came off a feed – made it tough for the Tigers.

Like many teams this year against Stow, Twinsburg had some empty opportunities against the Bulldogs’ defense. The Bulldogs were able to get out and run at times.

A 20-8 third period made the 14-point halftime deficit swell.

Standout Stow guard Lilee Carlson pumped in 22 points.

“It was a game that we will learn from,” stressed Savage. “We need to get back on transition defense and focus on boxing out for rebounds and communicating on defense. We have improved.”

Austin led the Tigers with 11 points and three thefts. Pride was active while 5-foot-10 junior post Gabi Bonnizzio was assertive on offense along with sophomore guard Alexis Cellura.

Bonnizzio drained a 3-pointer in the third quarter while junior guard and first-year starter Elliotte Schneeman and sophomore forward Genesis Carthen also added a hoop for the Tigers.

“Gabi is starting to emerge as a strong scoring threat for us,” pointed out Savage, who is always looking for scoring options to step up and score to aid Austin and Pride.

“It was good to see Genesis has been starting to emerge as a scoring threat as well,” said Savage, who was pleased with Cellura’s aggressiveness driving to the rim.

This season through seven games, Austin is averaging 15.0 points a game.

On the glass, Pride is snagging a team-high 6.1 rebounds a contest and also leads the team in steals at 3.7 per game and offensive rebounds in 23. Pride is hitting for 8.6 points a contest.

Austin is shooting a sizzling 63-percent from the floor on 2-point baskets and leads the team in shooting 3-pointers with 10. She is shooting at 23-percent from the arc. She adds 3.7 rebounds and 2.4 steals a game.

Exploding for 20 points in a recent loss to a quality Medina Highland unit, Austin shoots a team-best 77-percent at the free throw line.

Senior forward Nighya Carthen has strong experience and helps out the glass. Carthen (1.0 points, 4.0 boards and six blocks) is helped by Pride, Austin, sophomore Sophia Adick, Bonnizzio, Genesis Carthen in the paint and on the boards.

“Nighya is a force on the boards and Genesis really played well in the fourth quarter against North Royalton,” said Savage.

“We are working as hard as possible to score and gets baskets,” noted the coach, on the team’s struggles to score on offense.

Off the bench, Adick (2.7 points, 3.0 rebounds) is a small forward who adds defense, work on the boards, and solid passing.

Junior guard Mikayla Busincki (2.0 points, 1.5 boards), senior guard Christine Jiang, sophomore wing Lauren Glessman, and junior guard Maria Pontius have also contributed this season.

“I think the girls learned from the pause,” said Savage. “I think they appreciate things more.”