Little Giants too mighty

The night couldn’t have started better for Columbian. A 3-pointer from Sidney Baker, then a bucket and another 3 from Valesha Province and the Tornadoes raced out to a quick 8-1 lead over Fremont Ross.

“Kids came out, we talked about getting off to a quick start and they did,” Columbian coach Katie Fazekas said. “Our defense created some turnovers, knocked some shots down, they looked good. If we would’ve stopped the game after two minutes we would’ve been all set.”

But there were another 30 to play and over that time, things gradually slid over in Ross’ direction. By the end, Ross handily took one from the Tornadoes 54-34.

“We had some adversity right from the beginning. I thought Tiffin came out with some energy. They hit some big shots, put us in a little hole,” Ross coach Juan Vela said. “I think our team grew up. Instead of falling into that situation, we grew up and we came out of that situation possession by possession. I think that was a key. After they got that confidence going, we kept rolling on.”

Columbian stayed strong through the end of the first. Province scored nine in the opening frame as her team maintained a 15-12 advantage.

But after 15 first-quarter points, Columbian managed just eight total over the next two.

“Having the girls just relax and being able to read (the Columbian offense),” Vela said was key to his team’s defensive turnaround. “I know sometimes this game, when your playing it, things can go 100 miles per hour and I think that was happening. So once the girls relax, they’re able to read things and see what they’re trying to do.”

Ross went on a 10-0 run to begin the second quarter taking control of the game. Columbian’s first points of the period didn’t come until a basket by Baker at the 1:16 mark.

But another pair of baskets stretched Ross’ lead to 26-17 at the half, and it escalated to a 44-23 mark by the end of the third quarter.

Fazekas said Ross’ defense pressure became too much for her team to handle, and that will become a common theme until the Tornadoes figures out how to play against it.

“Their pressure just got to us,” she said after her team dropped to 0-3. “It’s going to be the same story for a while. We got to figure out how to handle that pressure. Until we do, we’re going to see it. We’re either going to step up and learn to handle it, or we’re going to struggle.”

The Little Giants (2-0) proved mighty inside, using a size advantage to control the boards and the paint. In the second and third quarters, when Ross did most of its damage, it held a 23-6 rebounding edge.

“Our girls are athletic and we have a couple tall girls and they’re aggressive,” Vela said, “That’s one of our goals, to out-rebound the other team. We practice that, and tonight I thought they did a nice job of it.”

“Rebounding’s a problem, but it goes back to fundamentals,” Fazekas said. “We do rebounding drills all the time in practice, kids box out really well. Then we have game-slippage. We get into a game, everybody forgets to box out. The stats tell the tale. We’re not rebounding very well.”

Ross’ rebounding edge led to easy baskets inside for its post players. Zarya McDonald led Ross with 11 points and Elayna Ackerman chipped in nine. Shania Kiser had six points while pulling in 10 rebounds.

“The real tale, they were 20 of 26 in the paint we were 8 of 25 in the paint,” Fazekas said. “When you’re shooting 30 percent in the paint, you’re not going to win very many games.”

Province led everyone with 19 points, but the rest of her team totaled only 15.

“She needs someone else to step up. … It’s too much pressure to put on one kid,” Fazekas said of the need for another scorer to emerge. “And she’s handling it, she’s doing a great job. Somebody else is going to have to step up. I don’t know who it’s going to be yet.”