WELLVILLE-Learning the craft of winning is a process, one the Columbiana girls basketball team hoped it came closer to learning Monday night.
In the midst of a fight not many expected, the Clipper defense turned it up a notch in the fourth quarter to pull away from Wellsville 51-38.
Bri Gingher led the Clippers with 14 points, while Aleah Whitacre had 10 points and 10 rebounds as the Clippers improve to 4-1 overall and 3-1 in the Inter-Tri County League lower tier.
"This is a learning process, this is a journey," Columbiana coach Ron Moschella said. "I hope the kids learn how to perform in close games. I like games like this because it makes them understand that every possession counts and you have to execute."
The Clippers won both games last season by lopsided margins on their way to a 21-4 record. The Tigers made it clear in the early going that this game was going to be different. After Columbiana got off to a quick 11-4 lead, the Tigers turned on their transition game and stormed back to to take an 18-17 lead midway through the second quarter.
"We learned we could play with a good team tonight," Wellsville coach Ed Swogger said. "There is no question we were a big underdog. Our players know now that they can play with the best in the league."
Playing in her first ever varsity game, sophomore forward Ashley Bennett scored eight points and grabbed 10 rebounds to lead the Tigers (2-3, 2-2 ITCL), while center Brittany Clendenning had 8 points, seven rebounds and a pair of blocks. Guard Shartece Taylor had three steals to go with her six points.
"Ashley has come on very strong for us," Swogger said. "She brings a lot of different things to the floor. Obviously there is her size and rebound ability, but she also handles the ball very well for a post player."
The Clippers were able to weather the Wellsville attack, and in the fourth quarter suffocated the Tigers with their defense, resulting in a host of turnovers.
"We were not prepared to play tonight," Whitacre said. "We got into halftime and really thought about it and came out determined in the second half to win the game no matter what. We started talking a lot more on defense and got control of the game."
Clendenning fouled out with the Clippers up 44-38 with five minutes to go. The Tigers would not score the rest of the night.
"That was huge," Swogger said. "Whenever you have your starting post on the bench in a key spot is not good. Give credit to their defense in the fourth quarter. We tried rushing the ball but their press really gave us problems."
In the end, the Clippers were happy with the win, but far from satisfied.
"The film from this game will be a learning experience," Moschella said. "Our transition defense broke down in the second quarter and we are still not running our offense at a high enough level. A win is a win though, and I am happy we were able to pull it out."
Columbiana dominated the jayvee game 61-26. Alexa Tringhese scored 18 points for the Clippers .Rasheeda Morris had 10 for the Tigers.
COLUMBIANA SCORING: Baylie Mook 2-3-7, Lauren Schlueter 3-0-7, Brianna Gingher 5-1-14, Aleah Whitacre 4-2-10, Molly Donnelly 1-0-3, Emily Witmer 4-0-8, Brynn Pennell 0-0-0. Haley Tohm 0-2-2. TOTALS: 19, 9-22: 51.
WELLSVILLE SCORING: Sabrina Thompson 2-0-5, Brittany Clendenning 3-2-8, Sartece Taylor 3-0-6, Kallee Powell 1-0-2, Kira Kelly 2-0-4, Ashley Bennett 4-0-8, Destiny Crow 2-1-5. TOTALS: 16, 3-5: 38.
Three-pointers: Columbiana 2 (Donnelly, Gingher), Wellsville 1 (Thompson).