Copley blitzes Twinsburg girls basketball as postseason looms
Frankly, the score of Twinsburg’s most recent outing wasn’t as critical as how the girls basketball team played the game.
Also critical was if senior Jada Austin was healthy after the contest.
Those two items loomed large for first-year head coach Heath Savage, who had the strains this winter of gelling a young team in his first year, a pandemic, a program pause, and team health issues.
Savage was simply concerned how his team and with Austin’s health is - in the stretch drive off her senior campaign.
A difficult road game against Copley offered the Tigers some learning opportunities and possibly more importantly, Austin may have survived a scare when she went down to the court in pain at the 6:16 mark of the third quarter.
Contesting a 3-point shot by Copley, Austin extended her defensive rush on the shooter and fell awkwardly and hard near the sideline. Savage believes Austin will be okay, but Austin hasn’t yet been cleared medically.
“Jada came down hard and strange when she contested that shot and it (later) was clearly a situation where she was not 100-percent to stay in the game,” noted Savage.
“She had a lot of pain behind her (left) knee and we are hopeful she will be fine – I know it will take a lot for Jada not to be on that basketball court,” stressed Savage.
Obviously, the play had huge implications on the Copley game, the season and Austin’s final games as a Tiger.
Twinsburg just ran into a buzzsaw in a 76-39 non-league loss.
With six or more key underclassmen with skills, Copley is also talented enough with its length and defense to make serious noise in the Division II brackets if the Indians can get past powerful Norton.
Ashley Kerekes is becoming special on the court as the 5-foot-10 sophomore forward excels on both ends of the court.
Kerekes exploded for 31 points against the Tigers behind a superb mid-range game and going 9-for-12 at the free throw line just in the first half!
Despite an early exit due to the score, Kerekes had six rebounds, five steals and three assists.
Twinsburg struggled to handle Copley’s defensive pressure like many foes do.
There was Copley’s devastating half-court trapping 1-2-2 zone, featuring Kerekes’ long and athletic 5-10 freshman sister, Emily Kerekes, at the point of that zone set. Copley (11-5) also had a full court and a three-quarters full court press.
That’s why the absence of Austin and some foul trouble by junior Logan Pride made it tough for Twinsburg to stay with Copley.
The Tigers just didn’t have enough ball handlers to deal with Copley’s stout pressure.
“It (the loss of Austin) had an effect on our game, but I thought we handled their press pretty well at times,” stressed Savage. “I think it will be games like these that our younger kids will realize the opportunities that can make us better.”
“We had some turnovers, but I think our kids realized that they can do it, even without our two best defenders and scoring threats on the court.”
It was game that did reveal some big positives.
Junior post Gabi Bonnizzio continues to make good strides in her game and especially on the offensive side.
Gaining some confidence in her offensive game and her capable shooting touch, Bonnizzio drained a pair of 3-point bombs and ended with eight points.
After dressing some varsity and for the post season, as a freshman JV player, Bonnizzio is back and making an impact. Savage likes her aggressiveness.
“Gabi hit some big shots for us and is really helping us on the offensive end,” noted Savage.
Sophie Adick also came up huge for Twinsburg against Copley’s diverse size and length.
Adick is reaching her stride this season with sound play on both ends.
Making strong decisions and not forcing the issue, Adick understands her game and plays within her means, and doesn’t play out of control.
“Sophie is really coming along and she is a cerebral player,” emphasized Savage. “She has good instincts.”
The versatile Adick has played consistently and may force the Tiger staff to designate more varsity minutes to the sophomore forward/wing in the future.
Adick takes quality shots, works hard on defense, and despite being undersized at barely 5-foot-8, Adick can play physical and holds her own in the paint.
“Playing soccer really helps Sophie I think because she knows about spacing and how to attack certain ways, plus she is very coachable like the rest of our young girls,” pointed out Savage.
Adick netted eight points off of the bench and kept Twinsburg in striking distance in the second stanza.
Thanks to strong short and mid-range shooting, Adick tallied six points in the quarter as she took open looks.
“Sophie knows her game and realizes how to process the game,” Savage added. “She is grasping things like the other kids and it great to see the kids react and apply what they have learned. That is so great to see on the court.”
Senior post Nighya Carthen and junior guard Elliotte Schneeman also stood out, plus junior guard Maria Pontius (two points) helped Carthen, Adick, and sophomore Alexis Cellura off of the bench.
Carthen was aggressive as she added six points while Schneeman helped handle the ball and dished out three assists and grabbed four boards.
Foul trouble and increased ball handling responsibilities coupled with her always huge defensive role, limited Pride to her first hop coming in the first minute of the second half.
Pride grabbed seven rebounds and had five points besides working hard on defense and handing the ball. Austin had seven first half points.
“I think we may have missed Logan’s presence more on the defensive end than on offense, but it made it tough for us on offense when she wasn’t on the court,” said Savage.
Making her presence felt on defense, Pride came up huge in the Tigers’ recent 51-39 league win at Brecksville.
Twinsburg had 20 steals in the club’s second league victory.
“Brecksville is young like us and we were able to apply pressure defensively and we created some good opportunities on offense, and it will be those opportunities that will make our offense better,” explained Savage.
Twinsburg received its post season draw at the Division I sectional- district tournament in the District 4 bracket.
“I was a little surprised at being ranked 34th out of 35 teams, but I think this region is pretty open,” he said.
Earning the 34th seed, Twinsburg has a first-round game on the road at fourth-seeded Medina Saturday at 1 p.m.
The winner plays a sectional final Feb. 18 against Akron Firestone, the 28th seed.