LOWELLVILLE - In a rematch of the top two teams in the Inter-Tri County League's lower tier, the Lowellville Rockets showed Monday night they are still the team to beat.
The Rockets pulled out a hard-fought 53-52 victory over Columbiana to open up a two-game lead in the ITCL race.
With the victory, the Rockets now have a two game lead in the league at 12-3 overall and 9-0 ITCL. The Clippers dropped to 15-2 and 9-2.
"Great girls game," Lowellville coach Tony Matisi saidd. "It's just going to prepare down the road. It's just going to get us ready (for tournaments)."
Lowellville improves to 12-3 overall and 9-0 in the league. Columbiana moves to 15-2 and 9-2 - both losses coming to Lowellville.
"Ah, great game," Columbiana coach Ron Moschella said. "Tony does a great job with the kids. Lowellville people are fantastic. Columbiana people are fantastic. I was proud of both schools to tell you the truth."
The game see-sawed back and forth throughout. With the game tied at 39-39 early in the fourth quarter, the Rockets went on a 12-6 run to gain a 51-45 advantage with only 1:32 remaining in the contest. However, the Clippers scored five points in just 32 seconds to pull to within one at 51-50.
First, Megan Cutlip would hit a layup at the 1:16 mark, and then Lindsey Roncone hit her second three-pointer of the night with one minute to play.
But the Clippers could not capture the lead as the Rockets senior Rachel Durbin hit two free throws with 31 seconds remaining to push the Rockets advantage to 53-50. Columbiana's Khylea Fullum hit a basket at the buzzer make thee final score 53-52.
"There was a lot of pressure, but I tried to tell myself to not pay attention to the fans, or the other student section," Durbin said. "Just shoot it."
"She has been solid for four years, she is a four-year starter," Matisi said. "We usually put her on the best offensive player, and she has been our defensive stopper for four years."
"Lowellville is the kind of team that they are not going to give up," Moschella said. "Tony has a great program here, he has a great following, and it was sort of like an honor to play here."
"It's fabulous (coaching against Moshella)," Matisi said. "We battled a long time ago when I was at Ursuline.
"It's like a heavy weight fight, but you know you go back and forth. You counter, you punch, and you have got to be on top of your game, because he is going to take advantage of any little thing."
The Rockets were led on the night with Kaye Solak scoring 16 points, while Durbin and Madison Opritza chipped in 15-points a piece.
Fullum had a game-high 17 points to lead the Clippers. Baylie Mook added 13 points.
Both teams return to action Thursday with Lowellville hosting Wellsville and Columbiana traveling to Southern Local.
COLUMBIANA SCORING: Lindsey Roncone 2-0-6, Baylie Mook 3-7-13, Khylea Fullum 7-2-17, Bri Gingher 0-0-0, Megan Cutlip 3-1-7, Haley Tohm 0-0-0, Aleah Whitacre 1-0-2, Emily Witmer 2-0-7. TOTALS: 19-43, 10-17: 52.
LOWELLVILLE SCORING: Kaye Solak 6-2-16, Courtney Conklin 2-1-5, Madison Opritza 5-2-15, Rachel Durbin 3-8-15, Katie Seidita 1-0-2, Samatha Chiclowe 0-0-0, Allison Wereb 0-0-0, Abby Partika 0-0-0. TOTALS: 18-43, 13-23: 53.
Three-pointers: Columbiana 4-11 (Roncone 2, Fullum), Lowellville 6-13 (Solak 2, Opritza 3, Durbin).