Kennedy Danna, Naomi Benson lead Streetsboro to key victory

·4 min read

PENINSULA — The Rockets surged to start the first and second quarters.

Streetsboro left the launchpad in the fourth, rocketing to a 50-31 Metro Athletic Conference victory over host Woodridge Saturday afternoon.

"It means a lot," said Rockets JV coach Ricky DeLambo, who filled in for head coach Carl Singer Saturday. "The girls, they really wanted it."

In the aftermath of a 20-point fourth quarter against a Bulldogs team that had won 12 of its first 14 games, the Rockets (10-5, 6-4) were understandably overjoyed.

They demonstrated brilliant post play.

They played dominant defense.

Those traits were present all afternoon, especially in Saturday's final stanza.

"We cannot slow down," Streetsboro senior guard Kennedy Danna said. "When we have energy, we're fast and we get so many buckets."

That included a bevy of buckets from freshman post Naomi Benson, who had 12 of her 26 points in the fourth quarter.

"I just felt it," Benson said. "It's a feeling that I get and then I just let it out."

Rockets run away in the fourth quarter

The Bulldogs were within 10 entering the final stanza.

They weren't within 10 for long.

Fifteen seconds into the fourth quarter, Rockets senior guard Mariah Embry dished to Benson, who drained a jumper from just inside the arc.

Woodridge got back within 10 by going to its own powerful post, Cameron Hoover, but on Streetsboro's next possession, Embry again found Benson for a bucket, this time in the post. Two minutes into the fourth quarter, Rockets senior Mallory Rice tossed a baseline inbound pass to the elbow, from which Benson calmly swished a jumper.

Forty seconds later, after Woodridge's Allison Martin had an impressive spinning bank shot to pull within 12 (36-24), Benson drew gasps from the crowd as well, surging under the basket and tossing a reverse over her shoulder and through twine.

Seconds later, Benson nearly added a 3-pointer, a shot that likely would have sent the Streetsboro crowd into a frenzy.

"She's getting really confident in what she can do," DeLambo said. "We know what she can do, but now she's out there and she's starting to show a lot of it and really stepping up in her game as you've seen the last couple of games."

Benson had scored eight points in less than three minutes. Even when she missed, good things happened. With 4:48 remaining, Benson freed herself near the basket with a beautiful up-and-under move. Her bank shot was just off but sophomore post Ella Kassan (5 points, 6 rebounds) was there to put the ball back in for a 40-24 lead.

Streetsboro sends early signal

Benson and Danna, so delighted in Saturday's aftermath, were instrumental from the start, scoring all 12 of the Rockets' first-quarter points.

On Streetsboro's very first possession, Danna blew by her defender, drew a foul and hit her first free throw. When she missed the second, Benson flew in for the offensive board, spun toward the center of the paint and hit a baby hook.

Leading 3-2 two minutes into the ballgame, Danna (11 points) stepped around a screen and drained a 3-pointer. The Rockets then sent a couple of lobs to Benson for layups and a 10-2 lead, and after the Bulldogs drew within three (10-7) with Benson on the bench in foul trouble, Danna responded by taking a rebound all the way for a layup with eight seconds remaining in the first quarter.

When Woodridge drew close once more, rallying to within two (12-10) early in the second quarter, Benson and Danna once again took over.

Benson put the Rockets back up by multiple possessions with a putback and Danna, who hit 2-of-5 from deep Saturday, again stepped around a screen for a trey.

"I told her to just go out there, you got an open shot, shoot it," DeLambo said. "She did a good job, knocking it down. She didn't back down when a couple weren't falling."

While Benson and Danna scored 37 of the Rockets' 50 points (74 percent) Saturday, the credit belonged everywhere, especially on the defensive end.

With Embry applying devastating pressure up top, Raelyn States drawing multiple charges and Kassan cutting off entry passes, Streetsboro held Woodridge to single digits in each of the first three quarters. All told, the Rockets limited the Bulldogs to 30 percent from the field and coerced 18 turnovers.

"Our practices are mostly defense," Danna said. "[Coach] wants us to be better at defense than offense because defense wins games. I think our team loves playing defense more than offense."

This article originally appeared on Record-Courier: Kennedy Danna, Naomi Benson lead Streetsboro to key victory

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