CUYAHOGA FALLS: Kent Roosevelt’s full-court press turned up the pressure in the second half, and the Rough Riders defeated Cuyahoga Falls 46-34 on the road Monday night.
Kent Roosevelt (2-2, 1-1) entered halftime trailing 22-16 but walked out of the locker room with a new intensity after coach Craig Foreman took it upon his team to turn up the pressure defensively.
“We really challenged the girls at halftime that the intensity wasn’t there,” Foreman said. “The pickup was huge. They really stepped up.”
The Rough Riders were led defensively by senior Libby Bradford and junior Justina Fortson, who together forced nine Black Tigers turnovers in the third quarter alone, and at least five in all four quarters. Cuyahoga Falls scored seven points over the final two minutes of the first half but could only muster two points in the third quarter.
At one point Bradford, a captain, charged for the ball near midcourt but was smacked across the face and had to leave the game for a couple of minutes with a nose bleed.
She later returned and finished with nine points.
“We challenged her to step up her game and she went nuts, defensively especially,” Foreman said. “That blood shows how hard they were all working.”
Fortson led the transition game with several pinpoint passes that led to easy points and acted as a field general on both sides of the court.
Foreman says that she plays the point guard position so well and so fast that it’s taken some time for the other members of the team to get comfortable with the speed.
“She’s a great plus to this team, and she’s a great floor leader,” he said. “The thing about it is that she plays at such a high pace all the time. Our girls are finally getting used to that and it’s helping out. She disrupts things on the defensive end, and on the offensive end she’s always looking for the extra pass.”
Sophomore Brianna Rock was the primary beneficiary of Fortson’s passing, as she scored a game-high 20 points. Eight of those points came from the free-throw line.
“She’s not shooting threes, she’s just more aggressive than a lot of people and gets buckets that way,” Foreman said. “And she’s getting a lot of free throws doing that.”
For Cuyahoga Falls (0-6, 0-1), Monday night was another example of not being able to put enough things together to find an offensive rhythm.
“We’re still trying to get an understanding of what it takes to compete at this level,” Cuyahoga Falls coach Joe Nowak said. “We have to be more consistent. Right now, we’re inconsistent in almost every game we play, and that inconsistency is a struggle.”
Senior Mary Messner led the Black Tigers with 11 points.
Junior Jasmine Eaker scored eight points and had four blocks.
But as Nowak said, Kent Roosevelt’s amped-up defense after halftime was too much to overcome.
“They stepped up the pressure in the second half and we didn’t do a very good job of handling it,” he said. “Executing our press break was a struggle over the last couple of quarters. I think a big reason why was because they did a really good job of stepping up the intensity and seeing if we could match it.”
Ryan Lewis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the high school blog at http://www.ohio.com/preps. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/RyanLewisABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.