Opposing teams are well aware that North standout Samantha Pirosko is among Northeast Ohio’s top players, but the Rangers proved in a 51-46 win over defending league champion Kenston on Tuesday they have more playmakers at their disposal.
With Kenston’s defense focused on Pirosko, junior Valerie Arnold scored a team-high 15 points while Pirosko finished with 13 and freshman Destiny Leo added 12.
“They had a lot of bodies around Sam and that opened up some space on the perimeter to Val and Destiny to get looks,” said North coach Paul Force. “Credit Sam for being unselfish enough to kick it out and our guards for knocking down the open looks.”
Arnold was 4-for-5 from behind the 3-point arc and also pulled down eight rebounds.
“We were told that there was gonna’ be bodies around Sam and that we had to take advantage of what we had open,” Arnold said. “We worked on shooting a lot lately during practice so our shooting confidence definitely went up after we hit some threes and it definitely changed their perspective of how to guard us.”
North led 26-16 at halftime and weathered a Kenston run in the second half to improve to 3-0 overall and 1-0 in the Western Reserve Conference.
The Rangers opened the second half by doubling their lead the weathered a 19-1 Kenston run, snapped by a Leo 3-pointer, to pull out the win.
“We came out of the locker room great to start the second half, which was a point of emphasis,” Force said. “We extended the lead to 41-20 and then Kenston made a run at us to get back in the game. Not surprising as they are well coached and play hard all the time, but it was nice to see multiple girls step up and make game-changing plays.”
Many of those plays came under the glass to give the Rangers a 42-34 rebound advantage.
Pirosko pulled down 19 boards while Anaunda Lyons had 11.
“Anaunda and Sam combining for 30 rebounds was huge,” Force said. “Sam gets noticed a lot for her overall stats, but teams can't sleep on Anaunda. Her athleticism and hunger for the ball has been fun to watch this year.”
Lyons also scored six points in the win. Ally Lako contributed with four points and four assists and Caitlin Stuart pitched in with a bucket.
“Obviously things to work on, but it's great to pull negatives from a win and come back tomorrow and get back to work,” Force said. “Madison on Saturday will be a battle. They always play us tough, especially at their place. We can enjoy this tonight but it's back at it tomorrow. We know we have work to do.”
The Rangers travel to Madison at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday and they’ll do it with plenty of confidence after a big win over the Bombers, who did not lose a league game in its inaugural season last winter.
“That definitely helps our team confidence, to come out and beat a team like Kenston who never had a WRC loss, who fought all four quarters and was definitely tough,” Arnold said. “It was definitely a nice feeling after beating them but with that win I feel like we will have a lot more confidence with many other of our opponents in our conference.”