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Shadyside seeks repeat in 2A

• Lady Tigers will battle Wheeling Central for the third time for crown; Lady Knights debuting in OVAC?final

February 10, 2012
By SETH STASKEY - Times Leader Sports Editor ( , Times Leader

There are numerous cliches about the number three when it comes to sports.

One is the fact the third time could be the charm and the other says it's tough to beat a team three times during one season.

Shadyside and Wheeling Central are of opposite opinions as they prepare to clash for the third time Saturday at 12:15 p.m. in the Class 2A title game at the Wheeling Hospital OVAC Girls Basketball Championship inside the Health and Physical Education Center at Ohio University Eastern.

"We've been focused and we want to continue to get better since we're in crunch time," Yates said. "It's going to be a good game (Saturday). I know both teams will come out ready to play, and hopefully, we end up on the good side of it."

The Lady Tigers have become almost regular players in this game, making their fourth straight appearance in the final regular season game of the season.

After falling to Monroe Central and Fort Frye during the 2009 and 2010 seasons, the Lady Tigers finally got over the hump and routed Fort Frye in last season's title game.

"We're excited to be coming back with a chance to defend our title," Yates said. "It's always exciting to play in these games for the girls, the school and community. We're looking forward to Saturday."

The Lady Tigers had little trouble in reaching the title game, disposing of fourth-seeded Linsly by a decisive 78-38 score in the semifinals.

"We're playing very well right now on both ends of the floor," Yates said. "Our defense has been solid and our offense is starting to click. Plus, I think our chemistry is getting better. We're playing very unselfishly."

Wheeling Central, meanwhile, is making its debut in the OVAC title game. The Lady Maroon Knights have been almost regular players in the semi-final round, but haven't got past that game until they dispatched River on Monday.

"We're very excited to be playing in the finals," said veteran Wheeling Central head coach Penn Kurtz. "We've not won an OVAC title in a while and it would be nice to send our seniors out with a championship, but we realize what kind of challenge we have in front of us."

Shadyside comes into the game with a strong 17-2 record, falling to Zanesville Rosecrans and Wheeling Park in December. However, the Orange avenged both of those losses since and come in riding a 13-game winning streak.

"You never want to lose, but when you do lose, you can certainly learn from them," Yates said. "After our first loss, we had to go back to the drawing board and it was the same after the Park loss, too. It wasn't what we wanted, but we learned a lot and we were able to roll from there."

Included in that winning streak was a rather deceiving 62-54 victory against these Lady Maroon Knights they'll face Saturday. In that game, Shadyside was lights out offensively early in the contest and raced to a 32-5 lead after one quarter, which left Kurtz and company scratching their heads.

Knowing the feeling of avenging a loss, Yates and the Lady Tigers hope to avoid falling on the other side of the equation.

"Avenging a loss is always sweet, but we've got to keep in our mind that we don't want that feeling of revenge to come back and haunt us," Yates said.

That win completed the season sweep for the Lady Tigers, who had posted a 50-33 victory during their December meeting in Tiger Town.

"We're looking forward to the opportunity to play Shadyside again," Kurtz said. "We thought, after the game at our place, that we'd have an opportunity to face them again. Shadyside has really gotten the better of the rivalry over the last three or four years, and we've got a group of seniors who are excited to give it one more try against Shadyside."

During that game in Wheeling last month, the Lady Tigers were on fire from behind the arc, meshing 11 trifectas, including nine from their dynamic junior duo of Karli Bonar and Hayley Holenka.

"Bonar and Holenka are both outstanding scorers," Kurtz pointed out. "Their other players complement those two really well and when they're shooting the lights out like they did against us, it makes the challenge even tougher."

While posting the victory, Yates found plenty when she reviewed the film that her team needs to improve on during Saturday's meeting.

"We've got to be tighter on defense and we can't afford to allow as many second-chance points," Yates said. "We just have to come out and play our good, solid defense."

Shadyside averages 60.8 points a game with Holenka and Bonar netting almost 36 of those points each night.

Holenka leads the team in scoring at 18.7 a night, while Bonar, who is the area's premier three-point shooter, checks in with 17.2 a game.

Senior Brooke Meintel has come on during the Lady Tigers' winning streak. After a slow start, Meintel averages a double-double with 10 points and almost 11 rebounds a night.

Junior Kristen Fijalkowski averages 3.4 points and 5.6 rebounds a night. Sophomore Toni Andes rounds out the Lady Tigers' starting lineup. Her confidence has grown with each passing start. She's now averaging almost six points a game.

Off the bench, senior Jillian Laslo and frosh Kenzie Fielding have played solid minutes as role players.

"Our role players have to come out and do their jobs," Yates said. "They need to rebound, take care of the ball and play solid basketball. We're a very unselfish team and we've got confidence in those girls to score, too. We work for a good shot, so our girls know their roles and, at this point, they just need to continue to do what they're doing."

While he hopes to avoid a huge run, Kurtz knows his team has to handle the Lady Tigers' spurts well and weather and storms in order to have a chance at prevailing.

"I think we'll respond because we've got a veteran team," Kurtz said. "Our goal is to not allow them a big run, but it seems like every time we play them, they go on one, so we'll just have to buckle down defensively and try to stop it."

Wheeling Central also boasts a trio of double-figure scorers in its starting lineup.

Senior Emily Bucon leads the way. Shooting better than 50 percent from the field, Bucon scores just under 15 points an outing.

Junior Colleen McCormick nets almost a nightly double-double on the interior. She scores 12.4 points and grabs 9.9 rebonds. Senior Bri Robbins is the Lady Knights' perimeter threat with 32 triples. All told, she scores 11.4 points a game and grabs six rebounds a game.

Senior Cassie Sorge scores nine points a game. Julia Palmer also sees quality minutes.

All told, the Knights score 58.1 points a game and allow 45.5. Central does possess a pair of victories against 5A top seed Wheeling Park this season.

"Defensively, we're playing much better at this point in the season," Kurtz said. "We've been struggling, a little bit, on the offensive end. We hope to come out of that, but Shadyside is a tough team to come out of that against because they play such great defense. We're going to do our best to get good shots and when we do get good looks at the basket, we've got to make shots."

Shadyside's defense is allowing just 42.6 points per game. The LTs average almost 33 rebounds and 10 assists against just 12 turnovers a game.



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