Toronto entered Thursday's meeting with St. John Central searching for its first win.
The Red Knights forced 17 first-half turnovers and shot 41 percent from the floor in taking a 36-27 lead at intermission.
Then the Knights went cold. Real cold. Toronto shot only 4 of 20 in the second half but a strong showing at the free-throw line, spearheaded by the late-game heroics of Lexie Berger, propelled Toronto to its initial 'W' with a 60-49 final score.
Toronto finished a solid 80 percent at the line (25 of 31). Berger was 11 of 12, including 9 of 10 during the final 8 minutes. She tallied 11 of her team-leading 22 points in the final quarter, heading off a methodical Irish comeback attempt.
"We've struggled at the line," Toronto coach Mallory Blanton said. "But we finally were able to connect and play the way we should."
When the Knights (1-3) needed a big play, Berger was there to make it.
The Irish trailed by seven to start the fourth but a steady stream of free throws allowed the Green to narrow the deficit to two on a pair of Kristen Russell free throws with 4:21 showing.
Berger hit a pair of free throws, followed by a short jumper from Irish frosh Lindsey Froehlich, cutting it back to one.
That's as close as St. John got. Toronto scored the next 10 points and never looked back.
Blanton's team showed promise during the preseason but started 0-3 out the gate once the games started to count.
"They worked hard all summer and played well in their scrimmages," Blanton said. "They sort of took a step back to start the season so hopefully, they got that taste back tonight."
St. John coach Bubba Kapral was far from thrilled with his team's performance.
For the second game in a row, the Irish were off their game. Wednesday, they overcame an off game to beat Steubenville Central. There was no such luck Thursday.
St. John was guilty of 30 turnovers and while Toronto was near perfect at the line, the Irish struggled, hitting only 21 of 40.
There was no offensive cohesion.
"They played harder, they played smarter and they wanted it more," Kapral said. "We cut it to one and we could have made them crack, but we didn't.
"We played poorly (Wednesday) night and escaped but not tonight."
Russell led all scorers with 25 and 12 rebounds for the Irish. She was aided by 12 points and 11 rebounds from Froehlich, who finished two blocks shy of a triple-double. Fellow frosh Marissa Rose totaled nine points.
Lindsay Bodnar backed Berger's 22 points with 16 points and six boards of her own while MaKayla Bauman added eight points and seven rebounds, respectively.
Toronto will look to inch closer to the .500 mark Monday when it takes on Madonna while the Irish (3-2) will try to regroup Saturday at home against Caldwell in a varsity only at 2:30 p.m..
TORONTO (60) - Berger 5-10 11-12 22; Sears 0-4 1-2 1; Bauman 2-6 4-4 8; Bodnar 6-14 4-4 16; Spadafora 1-3 3-3 5; Brown 0-5 0-2 0; Turner 2-5 0-0 4; Schaming 0-3 1-2 1; Harrison 1-1 1-2 3; Totals: 17-51 25-31 60.
ST. JOHN CENTRAL (49) - Froehlich 4-12 4-8 12; DeLuca 2-14 5-9 9; Rose 2-14 5-9 9; Russell 6-20 11-17 25; Coppa 1-5 1-2 3; Sliva 0-0 0-0 0; Alvey 0-6 0-2 0; Totals: 13-60 21-40 49.
Three-point Goals: Berger. Russell 2.
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