TWINSBURG: The Twinsburg girls basketball team has a new look this season, but is experiencing similar success.
Senior guard Ashley Morrissette is the lone returning starter from Tigers teams that won the previous two Division I state championships.
Morrissette displayed her full skill set Wednesday night to lead host Twinsburg to a 69-43 victory over Walsh Jesuit.
Morrissette, a Purdue recruit, finished with 18 points and eight assists, both game-highs, to guide the Tigers. She also had five rebounds, four steals and two blocks.
“We are definitely less experienced than the previous two teams that won state titles,” she said. “I think that will improve over time. We improved and got our first two quarters down, but we need to learn how to control the tempo of the game for all four quarters.”
The Tigers (4-0) swarmed the Warriors (3-1) with an aggressive defense in the first half that led to a fast-paced offense. Twinsburg forced 15 turnovers and led 39-13 at halftime.
Walsh coach Pete Zaccari regrouped his players at the break and the Warriors put together a 15-2 run to close the third quarter and trail 45-32 going into the fourth quarter.
Twinsburg responded and extended its lead to more than 20 points behind the play of 5-foot-9 Morrissette, 5-10 junior Baleigh Reid, 6-2 senior Char-dell Dunnigan, 5-9 senior Brooke Smith, 5-9 sophomore Aloneet Durden and 5-11 junior Marisa Howard.
“After every game we talk about something that we can learn from that game, and obviously without getting into too many specifics, I think they knew that the beginning of the third quarter is what we need to learn from,” Twinsburg coach Julie Solis said. “We got up and had a great first half, and then I think we said ‘Ah, we are going 75 percent in the second half.’ And that is not good enough.”
The Tigers committed eight turnovers in the third quarter, but put that behind them in the fourth quarter and finished strong.
Reid, who holds a scholarship offer from Miami (Ohio), finished with 14 points, nine rebounds and three steals.
“I feel like we have four really long guards when we go with a smaller lineup,” Reid said. “Our athleticism is great to have. I think we are faster than a lot of teams and they have a hard time keeping up with us when we play at 100 percent.”
Dunnigan, a George Mason recruit, totaled 10 points, 11 rebounds and two steals.
“We need to play hard the whole game,” Dunnigan said. “We kind of played bad in the beginning of the third quarter. We just need to go 100 percent and play like it is 0-0.”
Smith, a Cleveland State recruit, added 10 points, seven rebounds and two steals. Durden scored eight points and Howard scored five points.
“When we go out and play defense like we can as a team, where all five are on the same page, I think our defense is pretty darn good,” Solis said.
Jessa Gilberto, a 5-7 senior, paced Walsh with 12 points and 5-8 junior Rachel Keough added 10 points. The Warriors got a presence inside from 5-11 senior Sophia Simone (eight points) and 5-10 sophomore Lilli Piper (seven points, 11 rebounds), and 5-8 sophomore Anna Hall corralled six steals.
“Twinsburg is a very good team and they are very athletic,” Zaccari said. “If you are not at your best, you are in trouble. In the second quarter we definitely did a lot of standing around and a lot of staring at the ball.
“At halftime we just talked about executing, being in the right spots, moving the ball and passing the ball before a double-team, all the basic fundamentals we always talk about. When we did that we got good looks. We have to knock more of those down.”