Garaway Girls Basketball

Lady P’s make life uncomfortable for Potters in 60-19 tourney win

Ashton Gerber's D sets the tone for a Lady P's win

With 6-foot, 3-inch Emma Ludwig and 6-footer Ciara Peachy manning the paint inside for the East Liverpool Potters, Dave Shutt had just one thought in mind for his Garaway Lady Pirates team as they squared off with the Potters in their East District Sectional title contest: Don’t let them get into their set offense.

Utilizing both a full-court press as well as a smothering half-court defensive set that picked up the Potters’ guards as soon as they crossed mid-court, Garaway picked the pockets of East Liverpool 17 times and basically “stole” a 60-19 win in which the Potters rarely got off comfortable shots.

“The goal coming in was to cause problems with their guards and not let them even get the ball down on the blocks,” Shutt said. “We watched them live, and they have a tendency to take the ball up the sideline, and we felt we could do a lot of trapping there that wouldn’t allow them to get it inside as easily, and we did that.”

Right off the opening tip, Garaway set the tone, and it would be Ashton Gerber doing the damage, making four quick steals in the game’s first two minutes. Unfortunately for Garaway it couldn’t make several wide-open lay-ups and led just 5-3 through four minutes of play.

Garaway players had their mitts in the passing lane all night long, recording 63 deflections and racking up 17 steals.

While it was tight early, Chloe Hershberger changed that by drilling a 3-pointer, and Zoe Johnson made a pair of steals that led to easy lay-ups for her. Victoria Flores scored on a put-back to end the first period with the Lady P’s ahead 12-5.

That was when Garaway junior Kallie Regula took over the game. Lizzie Mullet canned a trey for Garaway, and leading 15-6, Regula scored the game’s next 10 points, including knocking down a pair of triples, to make it 25-6. Ludwig scored inside on a put-back before the half ended with another Regula steal and score and another steal and bucket from Johnson that gave Garaway a comfortable 29-8 lead.

“I thought it would be a little closer, but I think much of that had to do with our defense,” Shutt said. “Their size didn’t hurt us as much on offense as it did on defense. We had to be very patient because they stayed in that zone and clogged up the middle with their big kids all night and took away our ability to penetrate.”

“Once I start making shots, I get really calm and feel really confident with the ball in my hands,” Regula said. “Once we got rolling, we started sharing the ball really well, and that helped our offense come together.”

In the third quarter the Energizer Bunny, better known as Zoe Johnson, had what was perhaps the finest quarter of any local player this season. The senior seemed to be everywhere, pouring in 16 third-quarter points to help put this game to bed.

Johnson hit a 3-pointer and then scored off a steal, one of seven for her in the game. Regula hit inside, and Peachy and Darshay Foster scored on back-to-back plays in the paint for the Potters to make it 36-12. Johnson then took off, scoring inside on a great pass from Regula, creating another easy bucket for herself off a steal, showing some range by draining a three-ball and scoring on an athletic spinner in the lane for a 45-12 Garaway lead. She would later hit a jumper in the paint for her 15th and 16th points of the quarter before Regula and Mullet would end the third period by dialing it up from long distance, and Garaway’s lead was 53-17.

“I get a lot of joy out of this game,” Johnson said. “I have so much fun playing as a team. I don’t care what the score is. I just want to play the game as hard as I can all the time. I don’t care what the score is.”

As for her third-quarter outburst, she said it simply came in the process of playing team basketball.

“I’m just out there trying to help my team win,” Johnson said. “Whether that is playing defense, passing it or scoring, I just want us to win. If I am open, I’ll take the shot, but I also like to share the ball.”

From there it was simply a matter of defending for Garaway, which allowed just two Darshay points in the paint over the final eight minutes.

Johnson ended the night with 23 points with Regula right behind with 22. Mullet chipped in with eight. Regula dropped in four treys while Johnson added three and Mullet tacked on two long balls for the Lady P’s.

“We had a really good, hard week of practice coming into this game,” Shutt said. “These kids are locked in right now, and we don’t want this season to end, and we aren’t going to take anyone for granted at this point. They came in here as the 15-seed, but we told the kids that East Liverpool doesn’t care about seeds and regular-season wins. They are focused on winning this game too, so we needed to execute, and we did that very well.”

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