Second half surge not enough for Elyria Pioneers

MORNING JOURNAL/JIM BOBEL Elyria's Shayla Middlebrooks, back, goes up for a shot over North Royalton's Alison Smolinski in the foruth quarter.

MORNING JOURNAL/JIM BOBEL Elyria's Mary Jones, left, lays the ball in over North Royalton's Julianne Lebo in the fourth quarter.

MORNING JOURNAL/JIM BOBEL Elyria's Alexis Roseboro, left, and North Royalton's Nikki Newman battle for a rebound in the third quarter last night.

MORNING JOURNAL/JIM BOBEL Elyria's Sierra White pulls in a offensive rebound in the fourth quarter.

ELYRIA — North Royalton came out clicking on all cylinders on Wednesday night.

Elyria did not.

Elyria couldn’t buy a basket and had several miscues, and the Bears took advantage. North Royalton clawed their way to a huge first-half lead before having to stave off an Elyria comeback, to come away with a 52-37 Northeast Ohio Conference win over the Pioneers.

The Pioneers played better in the second half, but the first-half deficit was too much to handle. North Royalton led the Pioneers 34-9 at halftime.

“We’ve gotten ourselves into a lot of holes lately,” Elyria head coach Mike Walsh said. “This team doesn’t seem to want to play until we yell and scream at each other. Maybe I need to yell and scream at them before the game.”

Elyria couldn’t do much right, as North Royalton did everything right. MacKenzi Matthews scored five, Nikki Newman had a 3-point play and leading scorer Alison Smolinski had a bucket to make it 10-0 right out of the gate.

“We’re not busting it like we need to,” Walsh said. “The way you practice is the way you’re going to play in games. You can’t just all of a sudden turn it on.”

Alexis Middlebrooks led Elyria (3-4, 0-3) with a double-double, scoring 10 points and grabbing 12 rebounds. She scored Elyria’s only four points in the first quarter. She went cold in the second quarter and missed five straight shots before making a field goal. By that time, Elyria was down 25 points.

“We’re really searching for an identity,” Walsh said. “We’re searching for a lot of things. We relied on our defense a lot, but right now our defense is not good. We can’t keep people in front.”

The Bears went on a 17-0 run to start the second quarter and the Pioneers came close to being shutout in the quarter. Shayla Middlebrooks made sure that wouldn’t happen with a 3-pointer with 46 seconds left. Alexis Middlebrooks also scored with 18 seconds left, but the Pioneers trailed 34-9 at halftime.

“We definitely wanted to focus on defense,” North Royalton head coach Steffani Jaworski said. “We’ve learned in the last couple games that our identity needs to be defense. Our offense stems from our defense, causing turnovers and turning them into layups. It’s always tough to play out here. The fans are great. Mike does a great job with this program. This is a big win.”

Elyria came storming back in the third quarter, going on a 13-3 run, fueled by Alexis Roseboro, Jocelyn Spraggins and Mary Jones. Spraggins’ putback cut the deficit to 15. However, that was the closest they got.

“We always talk about how the game of basketball is a game of spurts and momentum,” Jaworski said. “When I called a timeout, I told them they had the momentum, we got to get it back and get the game back to our hands.”

North Royalton answered Elyria’s run with nine straight points and closed out the third with a 46-24 lead. Smolinski scored a game-high 18 points, including a 3-pointer. Lisa Petro scored seven of her nine points in the second half, while Matthews finished with eight.

“We just brought it like we were supposed to,” Smolinski said. “In the end, we were able to pull it off after they came back. They had the momentum in the third quarter, but we pulled through. We just had to bring our game and do what we do best.”

Last Updated: 12/19/2012 11:42:32 PM EST

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