CONNORVILLE - Through the first five games of the season, Bridgeport girls' basketball head coach Rob Zitzelsberger still wasn't 100 percent satisfied with his team's performance, even though the Bulldogs came through the stretch unblemished.
After watching his team Wednesday night, he's becoming more of a believer.
''We played a little bit of basketball, didn't we?'' Zitzelsberger gleamed after watching the Bulldogs put a 72-33 pasting on a young Buckeye Local unit on the Panthers' home boards.
T-L Photo/RICK THORP
Bridgeport’s Caitlyn Kroll (2) is fouled by Buckeye Local’s Kierstyn Czuchran (35) going to the basket during Wednesday night’s game. Kroll converted a 3-point play on her way to 15 points. Bridgeport rolled to a 72-33 victory. Additional images may be found at cu.timesleaderonline.com
''We did a lot of nice things. We made a lot of nice passes ... we just played really well.''
So what's changed the past week or so with his now 6-0 squad?
''We've gotten better on shot selection,'' Zitzelsberger noted. ''We've gotten a lot better at passing the ball and making sure we don't throw 30-foot passes.
''If you noticed, (Wednesday) we had a lot of nice backdoor cuts. We've got Madonna (on the road tonight) and they'll be a quality team on a small floor.''
To make a long story short, Bridgeport is starting to do the small things well.
No one noticed that more than Panthers head coach Tom Figurski, who watched his team fall to 0-3.
''We're in a building in process, is a good way to put it,'' he said. ''We've taken our lumps from two of arguably the best teams in the valley (Indian Creek and Bridgeport) and we've learned a lot from it.
''I'm proud of the girls for competing and it will only make us better in the long run.''
All 10 players that played for Bridgeport scored, led by Maclaine Murad's 18. Caitlyn Kroll added 15, while Nicole Smolenak had 10.
All three players had a hand in the Bulldogs' 9-0 run to open the game. Bridgeport pressured the Panthers immediately, turning many a turnover into points and taking control of the game right away.
''That hurt them real quick,'' Zitzelsberger said. ''We did a lot of things (Wednesday) we don't normally do in a game, but we have to work on them in case things get close.''
Buckeye Local weathered the early storm and kept things interesting early in the second quarter.
Chanler Long drained a 3-pointer and Becky Zeroski had a layup as the Panthers drew to within eight at 23-15. But Zeroski's field goal was the Panthers' last of the first half.
Zeroski paced the Panthers with 16 points.
Meanwhile, the Bulldogs kept scoring. And even those who weren't scoring were fulfilling their roles.
''That's why it's a team,'' Zitzelsberger pointed out. ''It's not all about points. Someone gets the steals, someone gets the rebounds.''
A Smolenak layup, followed moments later by a Keri Renzler baseline jumper made the score 27-15.
Brianna Massey beat the first-half buzzer with a layup that made the score 36-19 at halftime.
An Amber Millard 3-pointer sparked a 16-4 run to start the third quarter that made the score 52-23. The Bulldogs led by 30 - 55-25 - after three quarters and Zitzelsberger cleared his bench.
''I was able to get our younger players some valuable playing time,'' he said.
The entire game afforded Buckeye Local that opportunity.
''We'll bring it back to practice (today) and take a look at the tape and work to get better,'' Figurski said. ''These ladies are very receptive to that.''
BRIDGEPORT (72) - Kroll 5 4-4 15; Grimmett 1 1-2 3; Trouten 1 0-0 2; B.Massey 3 0-1 6; D.Massey 1 0-0 2; Murad 7 3-4 18; Smolenak 3 3-4 10; Millard 3 0-0 8; Johnson 1 0-1 2; Renzler 2 1-2 6. Totals 27 12-18 72. BUCKEYE LOCAL (33) - Swiger 2 3-4 7; B.Zeroski 4 6-6 16; Leonard 0 0-0 0; Czuchran 1 0-2 2; Long 1 0-0 3; Petrella 1 0-1 2; Banal 1 0-0 2; Taylor 0 0-0 0; R.Zeroski 0 1-3 1; Johnson 0 0-0 0. Totals 10 10-16 33.
3-Point Goals: Millard 2, Kroll, Murad, Smolenak, Renzler; B.Zeroski, Long.