NEWARK — Newark Catholic and Zanesville girls took turns trading blows Wednesday in a physical, defensive slugfest.
In the end, the host Green Wave was able to land just enough counter punches, staying in contention for another Licking County League-Cardinal Division title. However, the youthful, but aggressive and athletic Lady Devils didn't make things easy.
They forced NC into 21 turnovers, but the Green Wave rode Chloe Peloquin's 21-point, 11-rebound effort to a hard-fought 40-36 crossover win.
"It was a lot of fun," said the 6-foot-2 Peloquin, one of the few seniors on the floor. "We came out and really wanted to win. We knew how important it was in the league, and we were ready. They were a good team, and we knew they would make some runs. In the past, we might not have responded, but we've improved mentally. We just said, 'hey, it's our turn.'"
"We've had some really big wins lately, like Portsmouth Notre Dame and now tonight," said senior Brooklyn Smith, whose defensive effort on Zanesville sophomore Jersey Draughn helped lead to the victory. "It was even bigger since Johnstown won tonight against Licking Valley." That left the Green Wave (10-4 overall) tied with the Johnnies atop the LCL Cardinal at 7-4.
Zanesville (9-7, 6-5), starting four sophomores, nearly spoiled things. NC led 33-29 after three quarters, but Kandrea Sowers scored starting the fourth and freshman Addy Antonetz came off the bench for a pair of steals, one of them leading to her foul shot that pulled the Lady Devils within 32-31.
But NC went on a 6-0 run that provided just enough space. Peloquin scored inside, Mayci Sayre followed in her own miss, and Maddie Kauble sank two foul shots after a technical foul for a 39-32 lead with 2:40 to play.
However, the Lady Devils weren't done. Draughn assisted Jada Seyfried on a 3-pointer from the right wing, then came up with a steal and was fouled with 19 seconds. She hit the first and missed the second, making it 39-36, and Zanesville maintained possession. But a game-tying 3 was well off the mark.
"It would have been a one-point game. The technical was my fault, and totally on me," coach Jeff Moore said. "I'm proud of our girls. They've been giving me everything they've got, and they keep playing hard. We left some opportunities out there and it's just little things. We just need to capitalize and get past our mental lapses."
Sowers came out of the gate with seven points and three steals as the Lady Devils stunned NC early on with their quickness and stormed to a 12-3 lead. But 3-pointers by Smith and Kylie Gibson righted the ship, and Peloquin then took over with an 11-point second quarter. She scored from the foul line, on a 3-pointer and on a rebound, and Sophie Peloquin added a 3 in a 10-0 run closing the half for a 23-17 lead.
"Chloe had her best game," coach Rob Smith said. "We knew coming in about Zanesville's athleticism and how well coached they were. We went to a two-guard front, and the high post opened up."
"We moved the ball, got it into the gaps and got me wide open shots," Peloquin said.
The Lady Devils answered with a 12-4, third-quarter run fueled by lone senior starter Alexis Barnett, whose two baskets, two assists and a steal helped stake her team to a 29-27 lead. But Peloquin countered with two free throws, a baseline shot and fast break layup, off an assist by sister Sophie following a Zanesville turnover.
Coach Smith felt defense keyed the win, as Brooklyn held Draughn to just five points and Sowers had just four after her opening flourish. She finished with 11. Seyfried tallied 14 to lead Zanesville.
"Brooklyn and Maddie (Kauble) took out their two best players, and we went to a zone there in the second half that gave them some fits," Smith said. "The little things they do on defense lets the other three run around offensively."
"Our defense came up with some stops, gave us some momentum and led into offense, early in the game," Brooklyn said. "Brooklyn and Maddie really showed what they are capable of on defense," Peloquin said.
Defense dominated, as NC was just 14-of-37 from the field for 38 percent, while the Lady Devils went 14-of-39 for 36 percent. Kauble added three assists and three steals, while Sayre and Smith each grabbed six rebounds.
"I thought we got the ball inside, and out-rebounded them," coach Smith said. "We're not 14-0 or anything, but we're 10-4, and it's a solid 10-4. We like where we're at right now, but the league is tough. Anyone can beat anyone, and we're going to get everyone's best shot."
Sowers had five steals and Barnett six rebounds for Zanesville, which could be a tough out in Division II in the Eastern District.
"We're a young group, with all the sophomores, but we're at the point now where we've crossed that bridge," Moore said. "For the most part, they've done everything I've asked. We're 9-7, and there's bright days ahead."
This article originally appeared on Newark Advocate: Newark Catholic girls lean on defense, survive tenacious Zanesville