Bridgeport continues strong early play

People were expecting big things out of the Bridgeport girls’ basketball team this season.

After three games – all blowout victories – the Lady Bulldogs haven’t disappointed. The latest triumph came Monday night in their home opener inside the John Havlicek Gymnasium via a 63-31 rout of visiting Toronto on Frank Baxter Court.

Everyone was raving about the explosiveness of Bridgeport on the offensive end of the court, but it was the tenacious, in-your-face, defense that led to easy baskets in the transition game.

“We jumped on them quick and played very well in the first quarter,” Bridgeport head coach Rob Zitzelsberger said. “We played hard.”

The hosts tallied the first seven points of the game and raced to a 22-2 lead at the 2:22 mark as freshman sensation Caitlyn Kroll netted 13 of her game-high 21 points in the initial frame as Bridgeport led 26-8.

Kroll and junior Nicole Smolenak combined to give the Red Knights fits trying to bring the ball upcourt. Overall, the cat-quick duo charted 18 steals and nine assists, with Kroll completing her double-double with 10 swipes. Smolenak handed out five helpers.

“What can you say about Nicole and Caitlyn?” Zitzelsberger asked. “They play well together.”

Smolenak added 15 points, as did junior transfer Maclaine Murad, who also grabbed 10 rebounds in a reserve role. Keri Renzler chipped in seven points off the bench.

“We got some good scoring off our bench, and we’ll need that if we are to be successful,” Zitzelsberger noted.

Brittany Higgenbotham landed a game-best 11 rebounds as Bridgeport enjoyed a 44-36 edge off the glass. The Bulldogs’ pressure defense caused 34 turnovers. The hosts had a dozen miscues.

Bridgeport shot 23 of 39 from the foul line, including a sizzling 15-for-20 performance in the third quarter. However, it was a mere 6 of 13 in the first half.

“We shoot them every day in practice, and we run when we miss one,” Zitzelsberger continued. “We even chart them every day. It’s just one of those things, but we got better in the second half.”

Kroll finished her fine all-around game with five rebounds and four assists.

Malaysia Harrison led Toronto with eight points in a supporting role off the bench. In fact, the Red Knights’ bench tallied 19 points to just 12 by the starters.

Toronto salvaged a split when it captured a spirited JV game, 31-28.

Bridgeport treks to Weirton Madonna Thursday night.

Varsity scoring:

TORONTO (31) – Berger 0 1-2 1; Sears 0 0-0 0; Bauman 1 1-4 3; Bodnar 1 1-2 4; Spadafora 2 0-0 4; Harrison 3 1-2 8; Schaming 0 0-0 0; Brown 1 0-2 3; West 1 0-0 2; Jones 0 0-0 0; Turner 0 0-0 0; Robinson 3 0-0 6; Totals: 13-46 4-13. BRIDGEPORT (63) – Smolenak 4 5-6 15; Kroll 6 8-12 21; Massie 1 0-4 2; Benda 0 3-6 3; Higgenbotham 0 0-0 0; Murad 4 7-11 15; Renzler 3 0-0 7; Millard 0 0-0 0; Baker 0 0-0 0; Totals: 18-55 23-39.

Three-Point Goals: Toronto 1 (Bodnar); Bridgeport 4 (Smolenak 2, Kroll, Renzler)