Range slows Columbiana

GREENFORD – South Range senior Lexi Naples couldn’t have imagined a better way to go out on senior night.

The 5-foot-6 guard netted a game-high 21points to lead the Raiders to a 50-43 win over Columbiana on Monday night.

“The rivalry with Columbiana, and senior night against them was just crazy and so much fun,” Naples said. “It was probably the most fun we’ve had in a game all season. Everybody just works together and we connect so well.”

Naples poured in 16 of her 21 points in the second half, and was key in an 11-0 run through the third quarter to help the Raiders (12-9) withstand a surge from the Clippers in that same stanza.

“That is the Lex Naples from last year,” South Range coach Wayne Johnson said. “She was like that all of last season, literally almost every game. She has had a lot on her shoulders because we are young at the varsity level.”

“We knew that they were going to come out strong after halftime, so we had to come out stronger,” Naples said. “Coach just talked to me and Allison Oliver and said this is your day you girls have to go. That sparked the fire and everybody else started scoring.”

Fellow senior Allison Oliver netted pulled down a team-high six rebounds.

“Everyone just believes in each other on our team and we all can depend on each other,” Naples said. “So everyone knows that whoever is going to the free-throw line, they’re going to make them whoever’s driving to the lane, they’re going to draw the foul and sink the free-throws.”

The Clippers (18-3) fell behind early and were never able to fully recover. Foul trouble to key members of their lineup further complicated their comeback attempt.

“We needed to play in a game like that,” Columbiana coach Ron Moschella said. “They (South Range) came out and really played hard and jumped on us early and losing our two seniors, it’s hard to win when you lose those two.”

Columbiana’s Khylea Fullum and Megan Cutlip each fouled out in the fourth quarter. Fullum, the Clippers’ leading scorer, finished with just seven points while Cutlip added five. Baylie Mook led Columbiana with 11 points and Lindsey Roncone and Emily Witmer each added 10 points.

“I thought my kids hung in there, (Emily) Witmer played outstanding, Mook played well, Roncone played well,” Moschella said. “But Megan Cutlip and Khylia Fullum, when you lose those two it’s tough. But I take my hat off to South Range, they played hard, they really did.”

The Clippers must regroup before senior night of their own on Thursday. Columbiana begins tournament play on Feb. 18 when they take on Heartland Christian on the very same floor they suffered their third loss of the season on.

“I want them to feel this and remember this,” Moschella said. “I love it here, what a great place to play. Hopefully that can see us through the tournament.”

For the Raiders and coach Johnson, the win cemented was an exclamation mark to begin a week that follows a big win over Youngstown Cardinal Mooney, and shows his group is gelling at the right time.

“We played probably our best game of the year, we put everything together offensively and defensively,” Johnson said. “We really took care of their pressure and we were able to capitalize on that.”

And for Naples, her last triumph on her home floor included a special spectator watching from the stands.

“My dad has been my coach since I was six,” Naples said. “(After the game) he said, ‘You couldn’t go out better, great game to end it.’ It was very emotional for us because we want out with such a bang.”

Game notes

South Range won the jayvee game 60-34. Morgan Czopur led the Raiders with 19 points while Kelsey Phillips added 18 points. Haley Tohm had 13 points and Elise Hammond 11 points for the Clippers.

Fullum scored a season-low six points against the Raiders in the season opener, which the Clippers won in overtime.