Grafton, OH- Wednesday night featured a top 15 showdown between the Copley Indians and the Highland Hornets, the top 2 teams in the Suburban-American Conference. I asked Copley coach Julie Solis about the intense matchups with Highland.
“Yeah you know, this is what makes basketball fun, it makes coaching fun”.
Copley got the best of Highland in December snapping the Hornets’ 18-game league winning streak. Highland was seeking revenge on their home court tonight.
Copley is a team widely known for their defense. On the season they only give up right around 33 points per game to opponents. Of her team's defense Solis said:
"Defense is my thing. We set a goal to keep opponents in the 30's, but there is always room for improvement".
This intense pressure defense was on display early as the Indians forced multiple Highland turnovers. Despite that Highland stuck right with Copley, only trailing 14-10 after the first quarter. Izzy Callaway led all scorers with 8 points for Copley. Aleena VanKirk led the way for Highland with 6.
The second quarter was tightly contested. Copley’s intense ball pressure caused some issues for Highland. Luckily for Highland the Indians only scored 9 points in the 2nd quarter.
Highland capitalized on the Copley misses by hitting some timely three's and forcing Copley into tough shots and bad passes. Aleena Van Kirk was the first half leading scorer for Highland with 8 points, sharp shooter Kennedy Morgan added 5. VanKirk has also added a couple of blocks battling with Ashley Kereks in the paint.
Both teams were a little shaky coming out of the half as there were 4 total turnovers committed in the first few minutes of the second half. Copley tied the game at 31 with 3 minutes left in the 3rd after Kami Ayoup broke away for a layup.
Point guard Evelyn McKnight followed with a steal and layup of her own to give Copley the lead. Highland coaches used the timeout to urge their players to anticipate the steal as Copley had been ball guarding tough all night. Coach Solis credited the defense of point guard Evelyn McKnight and forward Ashley Kerekes with sparking the 3rd quarter rally.
“I’m happy with the way we were able to deal with adversity and battle back to move forward” Solis added.
This tough defensive effort in the 3rd quarter allowed Copley to outscore Highland 16-8 in the 3rd and take a 39-33 lead into the final quarter. Izzy Callaway led the way with 12 for Copley. Aleena VanKirk leads Highland with 10.
Callaway started the 4th with 6 quick points in this chippy back and forth affair. I asked Coach Solis about Callaway:
“She is a fantastic offensive player, so smooth. In my long coaching career she is probably top 5 in offensive players I’ve ever coached”.
Highland coaches were not pleased with the unforced errors. Copley is too good of a team to give second chances.
Aleena VanKirk provided a huge spark for Highland by scoring 5 of her 15 in the 4th. Kennedy Morgan knocked down a huge three ball after a Calloway turnover to cut the Hornets deficit to 54-50 with 1:51 left in the 4th.
Highlands pressure defense paid off as they forced a travel on the trap coming out of the timeout. Copley was leading 56-53 when they missed a free throw giving Highland one more chance to drive down and attempt a game tying shot. Unfortunately for Highland, that attempt was blocked. Copley hangs on by the final of 56-53 to maintain 1st place in the Suburban-American conference.
Izzy Callaway led all scorers with 20 points. Ashley Kereks added 10 of her own with 3 steals. For Highland, Aleena VanKirk led the team with 15 points including 3/5 from the free throw line. Kennedy Morgan scored 13 including two big three pointers.
Copley will go for their 15th win in a row @ Aurora on Saturday
Highland will look to rebound Friday at home vs. Tallmadge
Full interview with Copley coach Julie Solis
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