HEATH – Two teams attempting to lay the first blocks of foundation in their rebuilding projects matched up Tuesday, and Granville’s size and depth proved too much to overcome for host Heath.
Five Blue Aces scored at least six points, and they held a 41-32 rebounding edge to hold off each Heath charge in a 54-43 victory in Licking County League crossover play. Granville trailed early in Eric Steele’s coaching debut, but the Blue Aces (1-0, 1-0) led for the majority of the final 3 1/2 quarters.
“We only had two scrimmages because of the late start to the season (for fall sports athletes), and this is our first live action for some young kids,” Steele said. “I am proud of the way they battled. I am proud of the way they handled some adversity and kept fighting hard.”
Coach Kevin Kent is in his second year at Heath, but his Bulldogs still are experiencing their share of growing pains. Heath’s full-court pressure allowed the Bulldogs (1-1, 0-1) to score in spurts, but they committed too many turnovers in their half-court offense.
Five consecutive points for Hannah Smith pulled Heath to 45-40 with 4:21 left in the game, but the Bulldogs had six turnovers in the fourth quarter to allow the Blue Aces to stay one step ahead.
“We had moments where we played disciplined and stayed within our system,” Kent said. “When we did that, we were able to close the gap and play with them. They are learning, they are getting better. It’s disappointing because we felt like we were a little further along.”
Junior guard Ciahnna Winston and freshman center Erin Shomaker came off the bench for Granville and changed the early flow of the game. In the first quarter, Heath sophomore point guard Daisha Shackleford frequently was able to break down the defense and set up teammates, but Winston slowed her down.
Early in the second quarter, Winston forced back-to-back turnovers in the backcourt. Shomaker scored on a putback off the first, and Winston scored on a layup off the second.
“When I am on the bench, I definitely watch the players, I analyze it and I see what they are doing,” Winston said. “I just knew I had to stay behind the ball, don’t fall for the fancy tricks. She is going to keep dribbling, and it is going to go right in your hands.”
Makinley Cramer hit two 3-pointers in the first half, and Jen Rush added a third 3 in the final seconds to give the Blue Aces a 27-18 halftime lead. Heath, however, came charging back in the third quarter as Shackleford had four points in an 8-0 run.
Smith’s basket cut the deficit to 29-28, but the Bulldogs could never get over the hump as Felicia Atkinson had an assist and a floater before Winston hit Courtney Brooks for a layup and Winston scored on a fast break to give the Blue Aces a 38-32 after three quarters.
“I think we passed it around a lot, and we got a lot of open shots,” Atkinson said. “It’s good to know that we’re open and we can get it up the floor and get a quick easy shot.”
Rush scored a game-high 10 points in high school debut. Cramer added nine, Atkinson eight and Shomaker seven and seven rebounds.
Autumn Pierce came off the bench to match Smith’s nine points for the Bulldogs, and Shackleford had seven points and five assists.
“I like to measure from one year to the other,” Kent said. “I look at last year, and if our team last year would have played the Granville team this year, we would have probably lost by 30 points. I don’t have expectations of this is where we should be or this is what should happen in this game. It is about attitude and effort and trying to execute offensively and defensively the things we are teaching.”
Granville 13-14-11-16 — 54
Heath 8-10-14-11 — 43
Granville: 18-44 FG,15-24 FT, 3-10 3pt. (Cramer 2, Rush 1) 41 rebounds (Shomaker 7), 26 turnovers, 10 Assists (Houser 2, Link 2, Winston 2). Scoring: Rush 2 5-5 10; Houser 1 2-4 4, Winston 2 1-4 5, Link 1 0-0 2, Atkinson 3 2-2 8, Smith 1 1-2 3, Cramer 3 1-2 9, Brooks 2 2-2 6, Shomaker 3 1-3 7.
Heath: 17-56 FG, 5-9 FT, 4-16 3pt. (Jones 1, Pierce 1, Shackleford 1, Smith 1) 32 rebounds (Shoemaker 7), 26 turnovers, 11 Assists (Shackleford 5). Scoring: Jones 2 1-2 6; Pierce 4 0-0 9, Shackleford 3 0-0 7, Smith 4 0-1 9, Witzberger 1 0-0 2, Shoemaker 2 0-0 4, Dawson 0 3-4 3, Boyette 1 1-2 3.