LISBON-At halftime of the Columbiana County Classic girls basketball game-with the atmosphere loose and relaxed-East Liverpool's Kiara Cowart wandered over to midcourt and began a playful bit of teasing with one of her opponents for the night, Shartece Taylor from Wellsville.
"Her and (Wellsville senior) Brittany Clendenning got lost coming to the game and were just laughing about that," Cowart said.
Cowart then went out and teased Taylor, Clendenning and the rest of the Red team with her game in the second half, storming to 10 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Blue team to a 49-45 comeback win Tuesday at Lisbon High School.
Cowart did all of her scoring in the second half and was named MVP of the Blue Team. Playing against her friends and rivals from Wellsville (Clendenning and Taylor) and Beaver Local (Dana Talbott and Sierra Wright) made the effort all the more fun.
"I really like playing against those girls," Cowart said. "I've grown up with them and have known them for a long time. It's always fun when we play."
After getting some help finding Lisbon High School, Clendenning and Taylor hustled into the gym as starting lineups were being introduced, threw on their gear and jumped into the game. The rushed entry had no effect on Clendenning, who scored and rebounded early and often, helping the Red team to a quick double-digit lead. Clendenning finished with 10 points and six rebounds on her way to claiming MVP honors for the Red team.
"We were running late anyway because Shartece had track and then we made a few wrong turns," Clendenning laughed. "We ended up having to follow somebody here."
Clendenning loved going against Cowart and East Liverpool in non-conference play during her career and relished going back-and-forth with her one more time.
"I always look forward to playing her," Clendenning said. "She is great rebounder and is great at boxing out, which is my main weakness. I like that we have opposite styles because it forced me to work harder against her."
United point guard Mackenzie Gatchel had a solid effort for the Blue team, finishing with 10 points. Her two first half three-pointers helped her team claw back after falling behind early 12-2.
After a Cowart put-back gave the Blue team its first lead with seven minutes left, Crestview's Emilee Chlebus hit two key baseline jumpers down the stretch to preserve the slim margin. She finished with eight points, while her Crestview teammate Ana Hardenbrook had nine points.
"It's tough to get into a flow when you don't play with each other all year," Cowart said. "In the second half we started playing together a lot better and started knocking down some shots."
Clendenning was held scoreless in the second half, but Beaver Local's Danna Talbott gave the red team a lift with seven points. Bri Gingher from Columbiana also had seven points, while her Clipper teammate Aleah Whitacre had six points.
RED SCORING: Danna Talbott (Beaver Local) 3-1-7, Sierra Wright (Beaver Local) 0-0-0, Mollie Donnelly (Columbiana) 1-0-2, Bri Gingher (Columbiana) 3-0-7, Aleah Whitacre (Columbiana) 3-0-6, Emily Schneider (Leetonia) 1-0-2, Haley Scoville (Leetonia) 2-0-4, Madison Pennington (Heartland) 1-0-2, Brittany Clendenning (Wellsville) 4-2-10, Shartece Taylor (Wellsville) 2-0-5. TEAM TOTALS: 20, 4-6: 45.
BLUE SCORING: Emilee Chlebus (Crestview) 4-0-8, Ana Hardenbrook (Crestview) 2-5-9, Kiara Cowart (East Liverpool) 5-0-10, Chelsea Possage (East Liverpool) 2-1-5, Kelsey McKim (East Palestine) 0-0-0, Courtney Weber (East Palestine) 2-1-5, Sarah Boyd (Lisbon) 0-0-0, Jenna Dickson (Lisbon) 0-0-0, Becka Phillis (Southern) 1-0-2, Mackenzie Gatchel (United) 4-0-10. TEAM TOTALS: 19, 7-13: 49.
Three-point goals: Red 2 (Gingher, Taylor), Blue 2 (Gatchel 2).