Avon Eagles sink Vermilion Sailors in West Shore Conference action

VERMILION — Avon has been looking for something to hang its hat on. It may have found it.

Playing a tough defense, the Eagles held host Vermilion to 12 first-half points en route to a 52-37 West Shore Conference win Wednesday.

“We are a strong defensive team,” Avon coach Meghan Banks said. “But over the last few games, we’ve been looking for something to define us. So we have been emphasizing our pressure defense which starts with our guards.”

With Vermilion (12-9, 5-8) celebrating senior night and senior AuBree LaForce closing in on being the all-time leading scorer, Avon (12-9, 9-4) came out with its pressure. It held the Sailors to seven first quarter points — all scored by Hannah Bartlome.

With the defense stifling the Sailors at one end of the court, the offense was starting to click. Brianna Smith came off the bench to score four points, while Brianna Conroy drilled a 3 to push the Eagles’ lead to 18-12.

Keeping Vermilion scoreless for almost six minutes, Avon survived a slew of its own turnovers to hold a 22-12 lead at the half. It limited Vermilion to five field goals in the first half. The Sailors didn’t help themselves, going 1 of 6 from the free-throw line in the quarter.

Avon freshman guard Catie Kelly had the tall task of guarding LaForce, but was outstanding in holding her to just three first half points.

“Avon came out applying pressure and playing physical,” Vermilion coach Colin Irish said. “They were aggressive and we were passive. They played very well.”

With the defense playing so well, the Eagles started to find the holes against Vermilion’s zone defense. Kelly, who led Avon with 11 points, scored seven in the third quarter alone. Brianna Conroy (10 points) added four.

Late in the third quarter, LaForce became the Sailors’ all-time leading scorer when she buried a 3. The game was stopped and she was acknowledged for reaching the milestone with the crowd and both teams giving her a standing ovation.

Avon capped its 19-point third quarter with Kelly slicing through the defense for a layup to give the Eagles a 41-23 lead.

After seeing zone defenses and not having a go-to scorer like the Eagles have had in the past, Banks was happy to see her team execute the offense with 10 different players scoring.

“We wanted to be constantly in motion,” she said. “We wanted to attack the seams, move the ball and make the defense shift which they did.

“We also wanted to use our pressure to get some fast breaks and get into transition. Our best offense comes from our defense. We are able to be more consistent on offense because of our defense.”

While LaForce was kept in check for most of the game, Bartlome was outstanding. She had a game-high 20 points. She scored five straight points to cut Avon’s lead down to 47-34 midway through the fourth quarter. But the Eagles’ defense stiffened allowing three points for the remainder of the game.

“I’m proud of the way she played,” Irish said. “We are going to need her to play like that as we head towards the tournament.”

Avon host Olmsted Falls on Saturday, while Vermilion travels to North Ridgeville next Tuesday.

Last Updated: 2/6/2013 11:23:35 PM EST

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