Sunday, February 5, 2023

Rangers run to win at Riverside

After opening the season with three wins against fast, athletic teams, North was prepared for its Western Reserve Conference showdown at Riverside on Wednesday.

The Rangers set the tone with an early run and kept the pressure on the Beavers as they cruised to a 64-43 win to improve to 4-0 overall and 2-0 in league play.

“It was a different game than our first three,” said North coach Paul Force. “Strategically, we talked a lot before the game about pace. We wanted to get the pace in our favor. We felt that depth-wise and size-wise, that if we got a lot of possessions and got a lot of shots up it would be hard for them to maintain that pace for four quarters.”

North led 20-10 after the first quarter and 38-19 at halftime.

“We were able to make a run on them early, each quarter we made big runs, but to their credit they answered all of them and climbed back in it,” Force said. “They certainly didn't give up. Coach (Joel) Wolf has them playing hard. He's trying to install a new system this year but I definitely give them credit for scrapping and getting their way back in after we made runs. They didn't roll over.”

Samantha Pirosko led all scorers with 18 points and also pulled down a team-high 12 rebounds and had six of the Rangers’ 17 steals.

Destiny Leo chipped in with 14 points, five rebounds, three steals, a pair of assists and blocked five shots.

“Destiny is coming around pretty quickly for a ninth grader to be able to impact the game in multiple ways, not just from the scoring end,” Force said. “She's getting some blocks and steals, rebounds and assists. It was a solid floor game for her.”

Leo believes she’s settling into her role on the varsity squad and gaining confidence with each game.

“The more minutes I get to play I definitely get more comfortable and my teammates really make it easier to fit in and feel comfortable on the court,” she said. “We worked at practice on swinging the ball quickly and getting one more shots, so during the game I was able to capitalize on my opportunities. I know defense is a very important part of the game and I tried any way I could to make a stop so we could go the other way.”

Leo has averaged 10.5 points and 6.5 rebounds in her first four games at North.

“She has really good basketball instincts, especially for her age,” Force said. “To be as green as she is in our system offensively and defensively and to pick up on it and take care of the ball and get the steals, blocks and deflections she's able to get, that's really encouraging from a coach standpoint to see that. Her ceiling is extremely high. If she keeps working I think there's bigger and better things to come.”

Ally Lako also scored in double figures with 11 points and led the Rangers with four assists. She recorded three steals.

“We took advantage of what Riverside was giving us,” Lako said of North’s offensive success. “We know they always work hard and get it after the ball, so we know we had to play smart and take care of the ball, swinging the ball and looking for the open shot; making the best of all our opportunities.”

Valerie Arnold finished with nine points and five rebounds while Anaunda Lyons pitched in with five points and 11 boards. Madelyn Hamilton finished with four points and Taylor Valaitis scored three for the Rangers.

Our spacing has gotten a little bit better and I think people are understanding the offense a little bit more,” Force said. “Val didn't have one of her better shooting nights but still came up with nine points and does all the little things that she does and Ally Lako stepped up and had a double digit game. We have a lot of scoring threats, four or five girls that can come up with double figures on any night.”

Lyons averages a team-best 11 rebounds per game and Force is waiting for her to have a breakout offensive game.

“Anaunda Lyons keeps rebounding but I don't think she's come up with double digits yet but she can score the ball depending on the matchups and the kind of game that's being played,” he said. “It's nice to not have to rely on 30 or 35 from Samantha night in and night out.”

Gianna Fiore led Riverside with nine points while Brittney Prugel and Olivia Parsons both scored eight. Amanda Apanavicius and Marissa Rodriguez chipped in with six each.

The Rangers put their undefeated record on the line against rival South on Saturday. The Rebels dropped to 2-3 on the year with a 67-40 loss to Mayfield on Wednesday.

North is 13-3 over South since Force began coaching at the school in 2008.

“We don't talk about records at all when it comes to North-South,” Force said. “We practice a little harder; drills are a little more competitive, scouting reports are a little more thorough and attention to detail is there even more so. The girls know that is a point of emphasis of mine. We treat North-South like a championship atmosphere, like it's a playoff game. The girls know that. They know what to expect (in practice). They're not going to come in laughing and giggling and smiling. They’re going to come in focused and hungry to get ready for that game.”

For Lako, keeping alive North’s three-game winning streak over South is a priority.

“We need to be more focused and prepared because it's a rivalry game and they are going to be ready to play,” Lako said.

The freshman game is scheduled to start at 11:00 a.m. Junior varsity and varsity will follow. OhioVarsity.com will live stream the varsity contest.

North 64, Riverside 43

North (4-0, 2-0 WRC): Valaitis 2, Lako 11, Arnold 9, Lyons 5, Hamilton 4, Leo 14, Pirosko 18

Riverside (1-4, 1-1 WRC): Prugel 8, Apanavicius 6, Rodriguez 6, E. Parsons 0, Fiore 9, Kokal 2, Funnell 0, Holm 4, O. Parsons 8

North 20 18 19 7 — 64 Riverside 10 9 6 18 — 43

Field goals: North 24 of 60, Riverside 18 of 63; Free throws: North 8 of 20, Riverside 2 of 2; 3-pointers: North 8 (Leo 3, Valaitis, Lako, Arnold, Lyons, Hamilto), Riverside 5 (Prugel 2, Apanavicius 2, Fiore 1); Rebounds: North 43 (Pirosko 12), Riverside 27 (O. Parsons 5); Assists: North 17 (Lakeo 4), Riverside 11 (E. Parsons 4); JV: North def. Riverside

Steve Harehttp://www.ohiovarsity.com
Steve Hare is the Chagrin Valley Conference's Sports Information Director. He also created and publishes OhioVarsity.com, an online publication dedicated to providing hyperlocal coverage to area high school athletic programs. Hare began covering high school sports for the Lake County News Herald in 1997. Hare attended Willoughby South High School through the middle of his senior year, then graduated from Berkshire High School in Burton in 1986. He played football, wrestled and was an all-Geauga county baseball player (1986). He lives in Chardon with his wife Paulette and their children.

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