Twinsburg is showing flashes of strong and consistent play as girls basketball action heated up with a pair of cross division games against surging programs in Medina Highland and Cuyahoga Falls.
Marking the debut of first-year Tiger head coach Chris Esterak and his staff, Twinsburg showed plenty of positives – especially on the defensive end.
The Tigers (0-2) lost 43-34 in the non-league home opener against Highland Nov. 22.
Twinsburg’s defense created 15 steals and held Highland to just 17 second half points, but it wasn’t enough against a Highland unit that should compete well in the Suburban League American Conference this winter.
Esterak’s troops will open Suburban League National Conference play Dec. 1 at Brecksville at 7 p.m. and host Stow-Munroe Falls Dec. 4 at 2:30 p.m.
Highland (3-0) could be a factor in the Suburban League American, where Cuyahoga Falls should be improved, moving over from the SLNC.
In the season opener, Twinsburg dropped a close cross-league road decision 52-43 Nov. 20 against an improved Cuyahoga Falls squad (2-1), which outscored the Tigers 18-8 in the second quarter.
The Hornets built a large early lead against Twinsburg, but when Makayla Busicnki buried a 3-pointer on the left elbow, the Tigers sliced into the lead 13-7.
Busicnki, a senior guard, who plays much bigger than 5-foot-5 and who has great quickness, had one of the better offensive outings in her career. That strong play spilled into Busicnki’s defensive game and to her help on the boards.
Senior wing Logan Pride, who had three blocked shots, converted a layup to make it 15-11 at the 5:55 mark of the second quarter, but Highland answered.
Despite senior guard Victoria Hayes taking a charge on a big defensive play for Twinsburg, Highland went on a 9-2 run and led 26-15 at the half when Delaney Lawson converted a Tiger turnover into a layup.
Fueled by a layup and a short jumper by junior post Sophie Adick, plus a pull-up jumper in the key and a layup in transition by Busicnki, Twinsburg went on a critical 11-1 run of its own!
Adick and Busicnki helped the Tigers slice into the deficit to a single point at 27-26 with 2:51 left in the third period. Defense and transition play helped the Lady Tigers!
“We did a better job after half time executing our offense,” explained Esterak. “We were able to start running the floor more. Defensively, we did a good job forcing Highland off the 3-point line and forced them to our help defense.”
“Mac (Busicnki) had a great game on both sides of the court,” noted Esterak. “I believe that she will continue this. Sophie Adick is continuing to grow as a scorer, which will help us a ton.”
However, guard Maddie Miller drilled a 3-pointer to make it 30-26 and score Highland’s first bucket of the entire second half with 2:03 left.
Miller added two layups in a seven-point explosion of her own to push the lead to 34-26, going into the final quarter.
Pride had a layup to snap the Hornet spurt with 7:45 remaining as it was 34-28, but a cold shooting spell and a slew of turnovers by Twinsburg ballooned into a 16-2 Highland run to secure the victory.
Highland was led by Miller and forward Aleena Vankirk with nine points each. Miller played solid defense on Pride as well.
“We are still a work in progress and we had a few turnovers down the stretch that we needed to score on,” noted the coach, who also praised the hustle of senior guards Maria Pontius, Hayes, and Elliotte Schneeman.
“They (the Hornets) are a good team and made some key shots down the stretch,” said Esterak.
In the Falls clash, Pride exploded for 24 points and versatile junior forward Genesis Carthen netted 13 as both athletes buried two 3-pointers each.
“Pride and Carthen continue to be keys for us,” stressed Esterak, who will have the services of experienced senior post Gabi Bonnizzio, who was out for personal reasons.
This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Twinsburg girls show flashes, but fall in season's first two games