If that grind didn’t do it to the Roughriders (10-6, 7-4) on Saturday at St. Paul, it definitely was the third quarter. The Lady Flyers (13-3, 9-2) outscored Western, 21-6, in the quarter on the way to a 51-37 home Firelands Conference win inside Harvey Keller Gymnasium.
The Flyers had their fair share of challenges, too, before the game.
“We’ve had sickness this week. Morgan (Baxter) has been out sick, but in all, the girls did a good job this week,” St. Paul coach Vicky Mahl said. “You just take one game at a time and go from there.
“I’m proud of my kids. Give credit to both teams; it was a good ball game.”
Junior Danielle Smith led the Flyers’ overall scoring attack with 16 points. Three of her shots were from three-point range and she was perfect from the free-throw line (5-of-5).
St. Paul junior Camille Endsley scored 10 of her 14 points in the first half. For the game, she also grabbed three rebounds and two steals.
“She (has) her fair share of fouls, but when she is in there, she comes (in) and she takes over,” Mahl said.
Western coach Brenda Friend said the ’Riders played “tournament-style” physical games against Edison (10-8), Crestview (12-4) and St. Paul in their three-game stretch that produced a 1-2 record. She was concerned about the toll it would take on her players.
“I just wish we could have played with fresher legs (Saturday). … Now we are practicing and working toward that second season,” Friend said. “We just went back-to-back with the two best teams in the conference. There’s a reason; they’ve got the most experienced players coming back and she (Mahl) has her starters.”
St. Paul led 9-3 with 3:59 left in the first quarter Saturday. Western went on a 8-2 run following a timeout and the game was tied at 11 to end the period.
“(The ’Riders) came out defensively and played aggressive man-to-man defense. That alters some things, but I think our girls did a good job overcoming that, switching up defenses on our side,” Mahl said.
Ellie Blankenship, a Western junior, took a pass from senior Gabi Duchette and knocked in a layup under the crowded basket in the closing seconds of the first half. Blankenship led the ’Riders with 14 points and eight rebounds.
“That’s another piece we’ve been working on and add that to our puzzle,” Friend said. “We’ve been telling her to please go aggressive and the kids were finding her and getting her the ball and she was finishing, so that was very helpful,” Friend said.
Each team scored 10 points in the second quarter for a tied halftime score of 21-21.
The third period was the difference-maker for St. Paul. The Flyers went on an 11-3 run and led Western 37-24 with 1:50 left in the quarter.
“We just told our girls to make run,” Mahl said. “One of the things we talked about in practice was, ‘You can’t stop on Western.’ They’re a good ball club and I don’t care how far down they get, they’re going to come back at ya. I told them, ‘You gotta make a run and you gotta keep going.’
“Basically, I told them, ‘Make a decision. Your decision coming out of this locker room will determine where you go from here,’” she added.
St. Paul ended the third quarter with a 42-27 lead.
“For three of those quarters, I could not be prouder of my team,” Friend said. “The same little things got us in that third quarter — a few bad decisions on defense and they hit I think four (shots) in a row (when they were) well guarded, well defended. We executed our defense exactly the way that we wanted to and they hit the shots. Those were killers; those were daggers. They were able to get separation from us like that.”
St. Paul plays a non-league game Wednesday at home against Vermilion. Western continues FC action, hosting South Central on Saturday.
Follow Reflector staff writer Cary Ashby on Facebook at “Cary Ashby — reporter & comic book blogger” and on Twitter at @Cary_reporter.
WESTERN RESERVE (10-6, 7-4)
Isabelle Duchette 0-1—1; Lillian White 1-1—2; Avery Tubbs 3-0—8; McKenna Woodruff 3-0—6; Sydney Ommert 2-1—6; Ellie Blankenship 7-0—14. TOTALS 16-2—37.
ST. PAUL (13-3, 9-2)
Morgan Baxter 2-2—7; Anna Lukasko 3-0—6; Megan Hammersmith 1-1—3; Camille Endsley 5-2—12; Danielle Smith 4-5—16; Brooke Houck 1-0—3; Maddy McCall 2-0—4. TOTALS 18-10—51.
W. Reserve 11 10 6 10 — 37
St. Paul 11 10 21 9 — 51
3-point FGs: (WR) Tubbs (2), Ommert; (SP) Baxter, Smith (3), Houck