WESTFIELD TWP. — Run hard, chuck fast, crash relentlessly, rinse and repeat.
NASCAR-style tempo was everything to Cloverleaf’s girls basketball team Monday in a 66-45 non-league win over Buckeye.
Attempting 76 shots while forcing the Bucks (4-9) into 36 turnovers, the Colts (6-8) used a 16-0 first-half run to take control and pulled away behind a 2-2-1 press that turned the game into a track meet.
Making the victory even more impressive, they survived 20 points, 12 rebounds and 11 blocks from bulldozing Buckeye center Jessica Banas.
“Tonight we showed our full potential,” senior forward Brittany Piper said. “We’re a good team. We work hard together. It feels great to bring home another win. We haven’t done a lot at home
(1-3 record coming in), and it was nice to have a student section cheering us on.”
Piper led Cloverleaf with a career-high 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting. Sophomore Lauren Gokey added eight points, 14 rebounds, four assists and four steals, junior Emily Civittolo scored 14 points while making 10-of-10 free throws and freshman Lexi Civittolo added 13 points.
While the Colts’ transition offense was unstoppable, it was fueled by domination of the Buckeye passing lanes as well as the offensive glass. Cloverleaf had 23 steals — Emily Civittolo (5), Gokey (4), Piper (4), Camille Hughes (3) and Briona Burgos (3) snared three or more — and gobbled up an incredible 23 offensive boards that led to a gaggle of second-chance points.
“Sometimes it’s hard to get set up in a half-court, so we go fast, get down there and make it happen that way,” Piper said.
Buckeye executed well in the half court when it wasn’t getting stripped or throwing bad passes. Banas was at the forefront of anything the Bucks did successfully, as her contested bucket in the paint put them up 8-7 midway through the first.
Once Cloverleaf began play to play an elite level of Hot Potato, however, the score got lopsided in a hurry.
Piper and Gokey led the charge during the aforementioned 16-0 run. Piper had two points, three steals and two assists, while Gokey had six points, three offensive rebounds and two steals before Rebecca Polchek capped the flurry with an off-balance runner that made it 23-8.
“It’s tiring, but it’s fun to run down and get a layup when you get a long pass and an easy bucket,” Gokey said.
Banas finally answered to begin the second quarter and the Bucks settled down. A free throw by Buckeye’s April Davison made it 34-27, but that’s as close as it got.
From that point, the Colts shined up the horseshoes and sprinted to a 19-6 run — the Civittolo sisters had 11 points during this splurge — that slammed the door on any faint comeback hopes.
“We’ve just been working on it,” Emily Civittolo said. “Practice, practice, practice. That’s all we’ve done — working the ball in and out and looking for an open shot.”
Lost in the breakneck speed of the game was an unbelievable performance by Banas, who is well on her to way to becoming one of the top rebounders in Medina County history but entered the night averaging just 5.3 points.
Cloverleaf simply had no answer for the 6-footer. The Bucks did a good job getting her the ball — they had 10 assists on the night — and Banas cashed in with a variety of drop-steps, putbacks and even a couple nifty catch-and-score moves while running the floor.
She also had two or more blocks in each quarter and finished the second half with 12 points, eight boards and six swats.
It was an outstanding all-around performance that was negated for one reason.
“We couldn’t get shots. They took (31) more shots than we did,” Bucks coach Randy Haury said. “When we run our offense, it works. When we throw the ball all over the gym, it doesn’t.
“Jess was unbelievable,” he added. “I’ve been waiting for her to explode all year.”
Hannah Huff had 12 points as Cloverleaf’s junior varsity won 33-25. Alexa Eisenbrown had nine for Buckeye.
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or firstname.lastname@example.org.