Firelands Falcons clinch Patriot Athletic Conference Stars Division title with win over Buckeye Bucks

MORNING JOURNAL/JIM BOBEL Firelands' Rachel Holowecky steps around Buckeye’s Julia Sekerak to score in the third quarter on Wednesday at Firelands. The Falcons beat the Bucks, 42-31, to clinch the Patriot Athletic Conference Stars Division title.

MORNING JOURNAL/JIM BOBEL Firelands' Destiny Samples, left, looks to put up a shot around Buckeye's Jessica Banas in the third quarter on Wednesday.

MORNING JOURNAL/JIM BOBEL Firelands’ Destiny Samples, left, and Buckeye’s Jessica Banas wrestle for a rebound on Wednesday.

MORNING JOURNAL/JIM BOBEL Firelands’ Destiny Samples, right, keeps a close eye on Buckeye’s Rachel Schweri in the third quarter on Wednesday.

HENRIETTA TWP. — It has been a long time coming for Firelands.

Relying on defense and exhibiting patience on offense, the Falcons claimed their first conference championship since 1996-97 with a 42-31 Patriot Athletic Conference Stars Division win over Buckeye.

“This is an awesome feeling,” Firelands senior Rachel Holowecky said. “Being a season and to win a championship is great. We were a little nervous in the beginning, but once we settled in … we knew we could do it.”

Firelands (14-5, 13-1) struggled a bit early on against Buckeye’s zone defense, but freshman Keely Hall and junior Casey Morrissette provided enough offense needed to give them a 9-5 lead at the end of the first quarter. Morrissette had five of her team-high 12 points in the quarter, while Hall scored four.

“We were a little frustrated early on,” Morrissette said. “(But) we knew we had to work together.”

The slim lead was cut in half early in the second quarter with Buckeye senior Jessica Banas scoring on a turnaround jumper. Firelands’ timing couldn’t have been better when they turned it on at both ends of the floor.

They forced six-straight turnovers, which keyed a Falcons’ 10-0 run and extend their lead to 19-7. Holowecky had three points during the run before picking up her third foul of the first half. Hall scored on a jumper in the lane, while Morrissette buried a 3-pointer. Alyssa Melendez, who was bothered by a bad ankle, capped the run with a driving layup.

“The girls played with a lot of grit,” said Firelands Coach Dave Kudela, who won his first conference championship in 18 years of coaching. “Once, they settled in the second quarter, we hit some shots and were able to get a lead. We were also able to get out and run the floor a little bit — which is something we like to do.”

With Buckeye playing a zone defense, the Falcons were forced to be patient offensively. But they still were able to rattle off a 5-0 run to end the third quarter and hold a 33-20 lead.

Late in the fourth quarter, the Bucks trimmed the deficit down to 38-31 after a 3 by Jordon Davis. Firelands regrouped and hit four free throws in the final minute to seal the championship.

“We knew we had to stay calm (when the lead was cut),” Holowecky said. “We knew our defense was playing well and we had enough offense to score when we needed to.

The defensive effort by Firelands was outstanding in holding the Bucks to 31 points. They forced 18 turnovers and didn’t allow Buckeye to score double digits until the fourth quarter. Banas, who was a first-team conference selection last season, did manage to score 10 points. But she had to earn them with Hall guarding her most of the game.

“(Hall) has come a long way,” Kudela said. “(Banas) is a very good player. We had weak-side help there as well, but Hall did a nice job of guarding her.”

Holowecky got the Falcons’ offense going in the second half, scoring eight of her 11 points. Though the Falcons like to have an up-and-down game, they did well running their offense and taking time off of the clock. When Buckeye switched to a man-to-man defense in the fourth quarter Morrissette and Holowecky were called upon to handle the ball and did a fine job.

With the championship drought over, Kudela is happy to see how the program has come long over time.

“This feels good,” Kudela said. “The girls have put in a lot of hard work and time into the game of basketball over the past couple of years. It’s nice to see it pay off with a conference championship.”

Firelands will celebrate the 1973-74 championship team on Saturday when it hosts Wellington.

Firelands 42, Buckeye 31

Patriot Athletic Conference

Stars Division

BUCKEYE — Samatha Daher 1-0 2, Hannah Hartley 1-1 4, Julia Sekerak 2-0 5, Sara Dash 4-2 10, Jessica Banas 5-0 10. TOTALS 13-3 31.

FIRELANDS — Casey Morrissette 3-5 12, Alyssa Melendez 1-1 3, Rachel Holowecky 5-1 11, Destiny Samples 0-4 4, Keely Hall 4-0 8, Haleigh Bari 1-0 2, Rebecca Myers 1-0 2 . TOTALS 15-11 42.

3-POINT GOALS — B: Hartley, Sekerak; F: Morrissette

Score By Quarters

Buckeye 5 9 6 11 — 31

Firelands (14-5, 13-1) 9 13 11 9 — 42

Team Statistics

Field Goals — Buckeye 13 of 50 (26 percent), Firelands 15 of 50 (30 percent).

Free Throws — B 3 of 4 (75 percent), F 11 of 20 (55 percent).

Rebounds — B 35 (Banas 11), F 43 (Holowecky 8).

Turnovers — B 18, F 12.

J.V. — Firelands, 32-21.

@MJournalSports

Last Updated: 1/30/2013 11:20:15 PM EST

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