By Jim Hunter
Once again, Steve Scott proved he is a big-game coach.
Shutting down Cochranton’s 3-point shooting attack with a stingy 2-3 zone, Scott’s Lady Panthers moved ahead of the Cardinals in the Region 3 standings Saturday afternoon with a 31-26 victory.
The win pushed Saegertown (8-5, 5-2 Region 3) a half game ahead of Cochranton (10-6, 5-3) for second place in the region. Conneaut leads with a 7-0 mark.
“This was a big win,” said Scott. “Cochranton has a great team. They are a good 3-point shooting team and I was worried about that coming into the game.”
The defensive-minded Scott put the clamps on Cochranton’s outside shooting with his patented aggressive 2-3 zone.
“We didn’t give them very many good looks from outside ... which was key. Our defensive effort was tremendous.”
Scott had a great luxury in the game: coaching with the lead for the majority of it.
Breaking a 6-6 deadlock, Saegertown senior guard Ashley Shouey drained a 3-pointer from the right wing with 2:30 remaining in the first quarter.
The Lady Panthers led the rest of the way.
In the closing seconds of the opening quarter, senior guard Rachel DiBartolomeo showed her great athletism by slapping the ball away for a steal and going three-quarters of the court for a layup to give the Panthers a 11-6 lead heading into the second quarter.
After Saegertown’s Victoria Eckart scored on an offensive rebound to push the Lady Panthers’ lead to 14-6, Cochranton coach Gary Egli had seen enough and called timeout.
Egli’s agony worsened 30 seconds later. Junior standout Madison Bernarding picked up her third personal foul and was forced to the bench.
Abby Clulow and Morghan Egli picked up the slack — hitting a 3-pointer and 15-footer, respectively, to cut Saegertown’s lead to 16-11 at halftime.
Continuing its long-range shooting, Cochranton’s Kendell Dickson got free and bombed in a trey to trim Saegertown’s lead to 19-16 with 4:07 remaining in the third quarter.
The talented Dickson had another 3-point look a few seconds later to tie the game, but it was off the mark.
“Dickson is a real good shooter, and for the most part, I was really proud of our defensive effort against her,” said Scott.
Saegertown’s go-to player — DiBartolomeo — quieted Cochranton’s comeback enthusiasm by going inside and scoring to give the Panthers a 21-16 lead with 3:20 left in the third quarter.
Bernarding — who returned to the game with 4:49 remaining in the third quarter — got on track in the fourth quarter by sinking consecutive medium-range jumpers to cut Saegertown’s lead to 25-22 with 7:06 left in the game.
Shouey then possibly hit the biggest shot in the game.
Getting free in the left-wing area, Shouey swished a 3-pointer give the Lady Panthers a six-point lead again, 28-22.
How big was Shouey’s shot? The fired-up Scott pumped his fist in excitement.
The game wasn’t over yet.
Trailing 29-26, Cochranton had possession with 38 seconds left in the game, but DiBartolomeo slammed the door on the Cardinals with a steal and two free throws.
DiBartolomeo led Saegertown with 10 points.
Bernarding paced Cochranton with seven markers. Egli and Dickson were the game’s top rebounders with 12 and 10, respectively.