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Steubenville races by debuting Buckeye

STEUBENVILLE — With the loss of junior post player Makayla Abram for the season, Steubenville head coach Jeff Lombardo is looking for his girls basketball squad to step up as a group. One player cannot replace what Abram brought to the floor each and every game.

However, it does create an opportunity for somebody else to step in the spotlight. Elexis Martin is one of those players, and she showed why Monday evening. The sophomore forward finished with 12 points, 10 rebounds and three assists (all game-highs) in leading Big Red to a 53-30 victory over Buckeye Local Monday night inside the Crimson Center.

“Elexis is a difficult cover because she can post you up but, at the same time, she can shoot outside and dribble,” Lombardo said. “More importantly, she has natural guard instincts. She’s looking to create for others. When she does that, she ends up scoring because of it. She’s always looking to make that extra pass, and she did a good job of that today.”

Martin also shined on the defensive end, with a helping hand in forcing 31 turnovers from the young Panthers (0-1). Big Red (2-0) committed 12 of its own, but a lot occurred due to offensive fouls.

“We’re going to be a pressure team. For us to win, we have to be aggressive,” Lombardo said. “Our defense has to prepare our offense. Sometimes, that comes with some aggressive fouls, and sometimes I can live with it. Other times are not smart fouls. The girls will figure that out and adjust.

“We’re going to try the things we can control. There’s no such thing as having a bad day on the defensive end. You’re either getting after it or you’re not. It’s a choice. That’s one thing we always try to control. Boxing out, controlling the boards, making sure we’re playing fundamental defense, those are things we can control.”

Another factor in the contest was rebounding. Steubenville collected 34 compared to Buckeye Local’s 26. Out of the 34, 18 were on the offensive end.

“We knew coming in that Steubenville was going to be a physical team,” Panther head coach Tom Figurski said. “They are bigger than us. We were hoping to try to control the ball a little more than we did. We’ll learn from it. We’ll get back to practice with our young players and get some things straightened out.

Madison Fields finished with eight points and eight rebounds for Big Red, despite missing the majority of the third quarter because of foul trouble. Anaiya Minniefield produced seven points and seven boards. Anna Taylor had 10 points, Aubrey Thompson seven points and Mary Marshall six points.

For the Panthers, Megan Valuska led with 10 points. Landyn Walker recorded four points and seven boards. Emily Valuska had three points and four rebounds.

“We saw a lot of good things on defense. I thought for the better part of three quarters we controlled their scoring,” Figurski said. “We weren’t scoring enough on our end, but I saw a lot of good things on defense. At times, we rebounded, but we need to jump a little more when the ball comes off the rim. Just getting playing time for these girls is the big thing.”

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