It was smooth sailing for Livonia Ladywood and rough sledding for Livonia Franklin during the two teams’ season-opening showdown Tuesday night in the Patriots’ gymnasium.
Energized by an 11-steal effort from Abbey Reppen and a share-the-ball offensive philosophy, the Blazers led from the get-go before earning a 50-21 victory.
Ladywood roared to a 31-15 halftime lead against the young and scrappy Patriots before expanding its cushion to 47-21 with eight minutes to play.
“I was very pleased with the way the girls played tonight,” said Ladywood head coach Amber Culloty. “A lot of the things we’ve been working on in practice we did well tonight. It’s a long season, but it’s nice to get off to a start like this.”
The Blazers were led on the offensive end by Erika Selakowski, who poured in 19 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, and Maggie Shirk, who scored 17 points.
Reppen’s dynamic defense also jumped off the stat page.
“We harp on defense, so for her to get 11 steals is awesome,” said Culloty.
The Patriot’s opening-night struggles weren’t surprising given that they graduated 10 seniors from last year’s district runner-up squad, and the hosts started two freshmen — Olivia Napier and Hannah Strasser — both of whom showed flashes of brilliance.
“Although it wasn’t always pretty tonight, I saw a lot of positive things that we can build on,” said Franklin head coach Jim Milican. “I also saw some things we need to work on.
“What hurt us the most was turnovers — we probably had 35 to 40 – but we’re going to keep a positive attitude and continue to work on getting better.”
The Patriots were led in the scoring ledger by 6-foot junior Sarah Channey, who scored 11 points in her first varsity contest.
Strasser was fearless shooting from beyond the three-point arc, nailing three triples to finish with nine points.
“Another positive for us tonight was sophomore Hannah Nordstrom, who is an outstanding volleyball player, but had never played basketball before this season. The improvement we’ve seen since day one for her has been remarkable. She’s going to do very, very well before this season is over.”
The Blazers not only distributed the ball with pin-point precision, but they often finished possession with attacking drives to the hoop, which resulted in 40 free throw attempts (they made 23).
“I think the best thing about this team is that the players are all unselfish,” said Culloty. “That’s the way they were during pre-season and it carried over tonight.”