Saturday, January 20, 2018

Rough Start Traps Wolverines in Loss to Orange
December 27, 2017 by Rich Kelly | No Comments

While this season is going to be a major youth movement for the West Geauga Wolverines, coach Cheryl Rye knows cupboard is far from bare for her team.

GAME PHOTOS: Click here.

While this season is going to be a major youth movement for the West Geauga Wolverines, coach Cheryl Rye knows cupboard is far from bare for her team.

With a solid core of seniors to lead the way, freshmen and sophomores are also stepping up into lead roles. But to this point of the season, things have not totally jelled yet.

Another example of that came Dec. 20 in the Wolvarena at West Geauga as a solid Orange Lions team broke from an early 2-2 tie to score 21 straight first period points in cruising to a 54-27 Chagrin Valley Conference victory.

The Lions (5-2) are green, themselves, when it comes to aging, with just one senior.

However, sparked by the long arms and longer talents of sophomore Kaydan Lawson and junior speedster Casey Smith, they put supreme pressure on the Wolverines defensively in that first period and never let up.

West G played them on even terms in the second half in showing grit and determination that has coach Rye, despite a deceptive 1-6 overall record, still very enthusiastic and positive outlook on her team.

“These girls have just shown such a great work ethic so far this season considering how young they all are,” she said. “I was really impressed with how we came out in the second half, picked up our intensity with solid effort , and battled a very good Orange team all the way. (The Lions) are a very nice team with a great blend of talent. They’re physical and long, which is a tough combination to beat, but our girls never gave up a thing. We won the third period and only came up short by two points in the second half. We really came out stronger, which is a key for us in every game in a very tough league.”

Starting but one senior in Kori Ryan, a pair of freshmen keyed the superb effort in the second half. Nicola Ehrbar did yeoman’s work battling the taller Lions on the boards to snare 11 rebounds to go with six points and four steals. She also dished out a pair of assists. Fellow frosh Elana Zebrowski paced the scoring with seven points to go with five caroms.

Trying to keep up with the Lions proved to be the biggest problem in the first half as West G fell behind by 31-6 at the break. Shooting just three of 20 doesn’t help, but the key factor was that West G turned the ball over 23 times in that first half, and 42 for the game. That goes a long way in explaining how, along with giving up 29 offensive rebounds to Orange, that the Lions got off 74 shots in the game to just 44 for the Wolverines.

The second half comeback was keyed by the play at both ends of Ehrbar.

“Being able to come back in the second half and battle with the limited varsity experience we have was absolutely huge for us tonight, and Nic was a major part of that,” Rye said. “We’ve asked her to step up as a freshman and handle things for us at both ends of the floor, and that is no easy task. A key factor is that she isn’t afraid to deal with the responsibilities that go with being a varsity player.”

Ehrbar has the perfect attitude for a team leader and point guard, though.

“I’m just trying to step up and look for my teammates every chance I can get,” she said modestly. “Orange is a very good team. Everybody we’ve played so far is a good team, but we do not give up at any time, and that is important as we learn how to play the game together.”

A 9-0 run midway through the third period that opened a 40-9 lead could have made lesser teams fold up the tent for the night, but the Wolverines showed the grit Rye is so proud of by using pressure defense of their own for a 7-0 run in the last 2:27 of the quarter, keyed by five forced turnovers out of a total of 28 for the Lions to narrow the gap to 40-16, and when Ehrbar put home a rebound and drove from coast to coast for a layup to start the fourth period, everybody paid attention. A 7-0 run for Orange, sparked by Lawson’s six points settled the issue for good.

She scored 23 points on the night to go with 10 rebounds, but the real story of how the game went was her seven steals and six assists, showing she had her fingers into a lot of the action at both ends of the floor.

Casey Smith tallied 15 points and was relentless in driving to the basket, and in taking a 49-35 edge on the backboards, led by Kennedy Vickers with 11, Lawson’s 10, and two other girls with nine.

Zebrowski tallied five of her seven to spark the fourth period rally for the Wolverines, Ehrbar added six, and Natalie Mueller and Kori Ryan each scored four.

The key feature of the Wolverines this year is youth. It showed in this game, as it has in others, but there also were many bright spots during the action that bodes well for the Wolverines over the course of this season and beyond.

They played in this game agains a much taller team without their tallest player, Alex Desciscio, out temporarily with a knee issue. Against all odds, once they got beyond that first period, they displayed an attitude that should make everybody happy.


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