COLUMBIANA-South Range coach Tony Matisi emerged from the locker room with a weary, but satisfied smile. Two road tests up, two down.
One day after surviving a weather-rescheduled overtime game at United, the unbeaten Raiders started slow at Crestview before a second half of precise offense and intense defense carried them to a 50-35 win Thursday.
South Range moves to 10-0 overall and completes the first half of the Inter-Tri County League upper tier schedule at 7-0, one game ahead of Springfield. The Rebels drop into third place at 7-5 and 4-2 ITCL.
"The last two nights were a grind," South Range coach Tony Matisi said. "Crestview made it tough for us to get settled tonight, but we are very happy with where we're at right now at the halfway point."
The Raiders were led by the all-around play of junior guard Ashley Sharp who finished with 11 points four rebounds and four assists, while Starla Sharp had 15 points-13 in the second half-and five rebounds. Sara Durr contributed 6 points and six rebounds off the bench.
"After the last two nights we are a little tired both mentally and physically," Ashley Sharp said. "It really wears you out. We are all a little sore right now."
While the Raiders may have come out with tired legs, the zone defense of the Rebels did more than enough to slow South Range down early.
The Rebels worked hard slow down the athletic Raiders by clogging the painted area and forcing outside shots. In the first half it worked to perfection as the Raiders came out ice-cold from the perimeter, while Crestview got a strong defensive rebounding performance.
Anna Hardenbrook led the way with 10 points and five rebounds, while Emilee Chlebus had five points and nine rebounds and Tristan Huff had eight points and seven rebounds. Crestview went into halftime leading 17-15.
"The hard thing was having a game yesterday so we didn't have any time to prepare for the zone," Matisi said. We drew it up in the locker room before the game but it took a while to get comfortable."
"We thought our best chance was to slow the game down and take away their driving ability," Crestview coach Rick Gates said. "We had them playing our style in the first half."
At halftime, the Raiders decided to force the issue by switching to a full-court run-and-jump press which focused on quickly trapping the point guard. The pace of the game sped up and the Rebels were forced into a number of turnovers, scoring only five points in the third quarter. Guard Jordan Youngs finished with zero shots but led the smothering effort with six steals.
"We've been working a lot on that defense lately," Ashley Sharp said. "It helped us turn the game around. We were able to force some long passes and get easy baskets off of steals."
The Raiders were also able to find holes in the Crestview zone with crisp ball movement, while also finally getting some outside shots to fall. Starla Sharp scored 13 of her 15 points in the second half, with many of them coming after cutting behind the defense. Morgan Czopur could not buy a shot in the first half but scored all 10 of her points after the break, including a quick five-point spurt that gave South Range a 32-22 lead.
"We were all getting very frustrated in the first half with shots not falling, but we remained calm and stayed with it and were able to find some opportunities in the second half," Ashley Sharp said.
"Their ball rotation against our zone was a huge difference in the second half," Gates said. "They passed the ball and found gaps extremely well and that opened things up."
South Range hosts Windham on Saturday before embarking on the second half of the conference schedule. The Raiders lead Springfield by one game, Crestview and Jackson-Milton by two and United by four.
"We have to guard against overconfidence," Matisi said. "These last two nights showed the girls they can't just walk on the floor and expect to win.
"The league is very balanced," Gates said. "Springfield, United and Jackson-Milton are all capable of doing damage in the second half. But right now South Range is the team to beat."
South Range won the jayvee game 49-17. Taylor Naples had 18 points for the Raiders. Makenna Perorazio had six points for Crestview.
South Range beat Springfield by two points earlier this year. The two teams meet at South Range in two weeks.
The Springfield-Crestview boys and girls games that were postponed earlier this week will be made up as part of a boys-girls doubleheader at Crestview on Feb. 14.
S. RANGE: 7-8-15-20-50
CRESTVIEW: 8-9- 5-13-35
SOUTH RANGE SCORING: Ashley Sharp 5-0-11, Starla Sharp 6-3-15, Morgan Czopur 3-3-10, Sierra Petrella 4-0-8, Jordan Youngs 0-0-0, Sara Durr 3-0-6. TEAM TOTALS: 21, 6-12: 50
CRESTVIEW SCORING: Anna Hardenbrook 5-0-10, Alexis Gates 0-1-1, Emilee Chlebus 2-1-5, Tristan Huff 4-0-8, Emily Ferris 2-2-6, Hope Halas 0-0-0, Sydni Bowker 1-0-3, Dana Drinnon 1-0-2. TEAM TOTALS: 15, 4-7: 35.
Three-point goals: South Range 2 (Ashley Sharp, Czopur), Crestview 1 (Bowker).