TWINSBURG: In a game that felt more like a district final between two of Ohio’s top heavyweights, Twinsburg outlasted North Canton Hoover 55-49 at home to remain undefeated.
Twinsburg, led by seniors Ashley Morrissette (game-high 20 points) and Brooke Smith (16 points), scored the final seven points of the game in the final minute to improve to 14-0 and remain as Ohio’s No. 1 ranked team.
“[Hoover is] very good and we wanted a game like that to be honest,” Twinsburg coach Julie Solis said. “We needed to play a tight game like that and it was good for us. We scheduled them as a nonconference game for that reason.”
With 1:55 to play, the Vikings (9-2) — who have gained steam after beating Canton McKinley and who still have a 6-0 record in Federal League play — had Twinsburg on the ropes ahead 49-48.
Twinsburg’s Char-dell Dunnigan was fouled and made one of two free throws to tie the game, and Hoover came up empty on its next possession.
With 52 seconds left, Morrissette put the Tigers ahead 51-49 after receiving a pass in the middle and pulling up for a short basket.
At the other end, Twinsburg sophomore Aloneet Durden stole the ball but had it stolen by Hoover sophomore Brooke Matinides, who then had it stolen by Smith, all in a matter of seconds.
Smith was fouled with 34.9 on the clock and sank both free throws to put Twinsburg ahead 53-49.
Junior Baleigh Reid then stole the outlet pass and Smith added another basket.
“You’re not going to come into Twinsburg and not bring your best game,” Solis said. “Especially when you get a chance, after the state polls came out with us being No. 1, I’m sure that motivated them even more.”
Twinsburg did a nice job of containing Hoover’s talented duo at forward of juniors Julie Worley and Kaylee Stroemple. Worley and Stroemple combined for 25 points (Worley had 17) but had little space to operate all night.
“I thought we did a decent job of defending them in the post,” Solis said. “I thought Baleigh Reid did a good job. That was our game plan. I think obviously that’s their strength, along with [Kelsey Peare]. We were going to try to shut down their inside game.”
Hoover coach Abbey Allerding was “encouraged” by the Vikings bringing the top team in the state to the brink in the closing moments, and on the road.
“Any time you play the No. 1 team in the state, you want to see where your team stacks up,” she said. “I thought our girls fought hard, overall they did a good job. I think we still have a lot of things we can continue to work on.”
Hoover senior Peare was dynamic for the Vikings. Peare was a force on the defensive end, leading to at least a dozen fast breaks and easy buckets. She also led the Vikings with 18 points despite looking gassed the entire second half keeping up with the Tigers’ speed.
With 31 seconds left in the third quarter and Hoover behind 42-30, Peare called a quick huddle — the Vikings responded with eight points and three steals (two by Peare) in the next 45 seconds to get back into the game.
“She was terrific,” Allerding said of Peare. “As a senior, she took ownership and she played extremely hard. I was extremely proud of how she played.”
Ryan Lewis can be reached at email@example.com. Read the high school blog at http://www.ohio.com/preps. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/RyanLewisABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.