CONNORVILLE - Something had to give here Thursday night as a pair of struggling girls' basketball teams - with a combined three wins between them - meet in Buckeye 8 action.
Homestanding Buckeye Local (2-8) used the inside presence of Lauren Swiger to build an early lead and then utilized a 'team effort' in the second half to hold off Martins Ferry, 54-44, on the Lady Panthers' home boards.
The 6-foot junior scored 15 of the Panthers' 21 first-half points as they led by six at the break. She would finish with a game-high 27, while adding 10 rebounds and a handful of blocked shots.
BUCKEYE LOCAL’S Kierstyn Czuchran (35) looks for someone to pass the ball to as Martins Ferry’s Tyrah King applies the defensive pressure Thursday night in Connorville. The Panthers won, 54-44. Additional images can be found at cu.timesleader-online.com
"We made the switch to move Lauren to the post in the Brooke game and she's been doing a great job for us," Buckeye Local head coach Tom Figurski said. "But, starting with the Steubenville game, we've started to see some sparks from other people. Lauren's been continuing her fine play, but other people have been contributing."
That was no more evident than in the second half when Becky Zeroski and Kierstyn Czuchran combined for 18 of their 20 markers. Zeroski, a heady sophomore point guard, tallied nine of her 13 in the fourth quarter, including seven early when the Purple Riders (2-8) made their first charge. She also meshed a pair of free throws down the stretch to help the hosts seal the deal.
"Our free throw shooting was pretty good tonight, especially in the second half," Figurski noted of his team's 15 of 19 effort. "We don't usually shoot them that good."
It was good that the Panthers did. After Martins Ferry pulled to within four, 47-43, with 1:15 remaining on Morgan Stalder's rare 4-point play, Buckeye local tickled the twine seven times down the stretch.
Swiger, who was 9 of 12 for the game, meshed all four of her tries in the final moments, while Becky Zeroski converted her only two and Morgan Fedorko one.
For Martins Ferry head coach Lindsay Coyne, it's the same old story. Fall behind early and battle back, but can't get over the hump.
"Give Buckeye credit where credit is due. They came out and played hard for 32 minutes. My girls, however, came in sluggish. We had a bad practice yesterday (Wednesday) and I knew we were going to come out slow," she said. "We battled back, but in order for us to get the 'W', the girls have to be able to lay it out on that floor, and in practice, day-in and day-out. You have to give it your all every single time. Not only for yourself, but for your teammates."
Freshman Sydney Bridges paced the Purple Riders with 14 points, with nine of those coming after the intermission.
"Sydney played really well in the second half," Coyne allowed. "If she continues to play like that, she's going to have a fine career."
Freshman Maylah Coleman added 13 points and Stalder chipped in 11.
Buckeye Local, which was won two of its last three, will host Indian Creek Monday. Meanwhile, Martins Ferry hosts St. John Central Saturday at 2:30 p.m.
No JV game was contested.
MARTINS FERRY (44) - Monroe 0 0-0 0; Stalder 2 6-6 11; Johnson 0 0-2 0; Coleman 4 5-6 13; Sutton 0 0-0 0; Skvarka 0 0-0 0; Bridges 4 6-8 14; King 3 0-1 6; Totals: 13 17-23. BUCKEYE LOCAL (54) - Swiger 9 9-12 27; B. Zeroski 5 2-2 13; Leonard 1 0-0 2; Czuchran 3 1-1 7; Long 1 0-0 2; Banal 0 0-0 0; R. zeroski 0 2-2 2; Fedorko 0 1-2 1; Totals; 19 15-19.
Three-Point Goals: Martins Ferry 1 (Stalder); Buckeye Local 1 (B. Zeroski)
North can be reached at email@example.com