Story by Jim Horvath
Photos and video by Larry Bennet
Despite a rough shooting night, the Rocky River girls had their chances.
The Pirates, who had made just 14 shots from the floor to that point, had two big opportunities at the free throw line in the final seconds of the fourth quarter against visiting Elyria Catholic. The Panthers, having their own offensive struggles, had missed a number of charity tosses to that point to keep the door open.
Instead, the game went into overtime, and the Panthers came away with a 44-41 overtime decision in a Wednesday night West Shore Conference matchup.
Rocky River, now 6-4 overall, fell to 4-2 in the WSC. Elyria Catholic, starting three sophomores and two freshmen, improved to 10-2 overall and 4-2 in the conference. With both teams not practicing due to the weather, any kind of consistency on offense proved hard to come by.
But the Pirates had a pair of golden opportunities late in the final minutes of regulation.
With 2:20 left in the game, they missed a pair of free throws that would have tied the game at 39-39. The Panthers went on to miss four free throws themselves, two coming with 18.1 seconds left.
River had two more shots at the line. With 42.3 seconds left, they split a pair to draw within one at 39-38. Then with 11.3 ticks left on the clock, they again split the pair. The Panthers turned the ball over, but with only 1.3 seconds left the two teams wound up heading into overtime.
The Panthers went into the overtime without starting point guard Riley Schill, who fouled out in the final seconds of regulation. But fellow sophomore Josie Carandang, coming back from an injury, stepped up and hit the first basket in OT for a 41-39 EC lead.
River countered with a fast break bucket from Nicole Popovich, but those would prove to be the only Pirate points in the extra frame. Free throws from Carandang, freshman post player Jessie Lee and freshman Nora Hopkins proved to be just enough for the visitors to pull out the win.
"That one foul shot would have tied the game with 42 seconds left," said River head coach David Murphy, whose team made just 11 of 24 free throw attempts for the game.
"Then we missed the one that would have put us ahead when Schill fouled out," Murphy said. "Overall, we went 11 of 24 from the line, and that's not very good. We're struggling on offense, but you would think we could make some free throws and get some easier points.
"That would have made a difference tonight," he said.
The Pirates, starting three sophomore themselves, went to a smaller lineup late in regulation to turn up the heat defensively. Murphy stayed with that lineup after Schill fouled out.
"When their No. 12 fouled out, you could see they were a different team," Murphy said. "We tried to press and get some steals, but we just didn't convert. We probably got four or five steals, so we had opportunities to score but we didn't.
"We called plays, but we'd turn it over or make other mistakes. I thought our defense was OK for the most part. Schill got in the lane deeper than we wanted her to in the first half, but we had other girls step up and help. Like I said, offensively we just didn't get it done.
"Defensively I thought we'd have a little bit more quickness, but they played scrappy and played well enough to win," he said.
The Pirates turned the ball over 21 times, four of those in the overtime period, and made just one of seven shots in the extra session. The Panthers didn't fare much better, but converted enough at the line to get the job done.
"Having not practiced for four or five games is kind of a built-in excuse, and everybody's got it this week," said EC head coach Eric Rothgery after the game. "It was a little rough, and it looked like we hadn't practiced for four or five days."
Schill led all scorers with 12 points before fouling out, while Carandang chipped in with nine points off the bench. Lee had eight points and 13 rebounds.
"We were lucky to have Josie back," Rothgery said. "She hasn't played since the second game of the season. We were supposed to be on limited minutes with her tonight, but we really needed her late.
"You always feel like you should play better. You want to execute better, you always want to do everything better. But in the end, I appreciate seeing my kids gut out a win at the end, along with their with their desire and effort. I thought the effort was there defensively. Down the stretch, the girls played very hard.
"When you put your foot on the gas pedal and they respond, you like that," he added.
Sophomore guard Andrea Chiviles led the Pirates with 11 points, while fellow sophomores Popovich and Lucy Grierson each pitched in with 10 points.Senior Kara Johanson had eight rebounds, while junior Carolyn Farling added seven.
But in the end, it proved to be a frustrating night offensively for Murphy and his crew.
"I just think we beat ourselves," he said. "We keep having our problems at the offensive end. Last Saturday against Olmsted Falls, we played well and were up 22-19 at halftime. Then we didn't do anything offensively in the second half and scored five points.
"Scoring is our whole problem. Tonight, I thought our girls attacked the basket, but once they got in there they didn't make smart decisions. We tried to spin dribble in the lane, we tried to throw up a running jumper. We've got to do a better job of taking better shots around or close to the rim," he added.
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