GIRLS HOOPS: Third-Quarter Run Sparks Cougars Past Utica

by BRYAN EVERSON

There’s runs, and then there’s running your opponent out of the building.

That’s what Stoney Creek did Tuesday night, turning a tight affair into the second half into a blowout 53-25 victory over Utica.

Leading just 23-19 early in the third quarter, the Cougars’ full-court pressure became too much for the visitors when Stoney started knocking down shots with consistency. Seniors Ally Voss and Morgan Porter knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers, and one of six Utica turnovers in the quarter followed by a mid-range jumper off the dribble by Voss helped quickly build the first double-digit lead of the game.

Senior forward Madison Rochow got into the action with a triple, and a MacKenzie Warner baseline jumper to close out the scoring for the quarter finally had Stoney doubled up on the Chieftains, 40-20.

“I thought the entire second half we did a good job,” Stoney Creek coach Kellen James said. “We talked at halftime about how we got a little sloppy in the second quarter and needed to clean up what we were doing. With the press that we run, we know that if we can put some pressure on some people, we can get a few quick steals and scores and make a quick run.”

It wasn’t until Julia Cantella connected on a 3-pointer with 6:54 to go that Utica was able to break the 19-1 run that propelled the Cougars (3-1). Even then, Stoney was able to get production from different places. Sophomore Emily Eckhout, who didn’t register any points in the first quarter, showed her versatile skill set off in the final eight minutes, drawing a foul from beyond the arc, scoring inside, then banking in a 3-pointer not long thereafter.

“It’s funny, because I told my assistants before the game I had a feeling she was going to have a really good game,” James said. “She got frustrated in the first quarter — she’s young — but she’s learning quickly. Once she settled down, she got more comfortable. The three was nice, but what I thought was good was her getting to the rim and to the free-throw line.”

Last year, Stoney took out the Chieftains (2-1) on their own hardwood, 47-38, in a district title matchup, but James said this meeting was one between “two different teams” than the last.

“In the district game last year, we hit a couple of quick 3’s that turned the tide,” he said. “Here, it was [won] more defensively. We took them out of what they wanted to do, and that was our whole idea, to make them uncomfortable Not just steal it in the backcourt, but up the floor. Funnel them in, get quick steals and turn the tide that way.”

James said he didn’t feel his team spread defenses out by moving the ball well in the Cougars’ first several games, but Stoney wheeled the rock around with quick and unselfish passes on plenty of occasions in Tuesday’s win.

“Last year, we were dominate with our post players,” said Voss, who ended with eight points. “This year, we don’t have a true post [presence] really, so we all share and drive. With a lot of outside shooters, that helps. We have more motion play, and we have to pass and cut to keep the ball moving and get our shots.”

Eckhout finished with 13 points for Stoney, as did Porter, who took several steals and showed off her speed with some fast-break layups off the turnovers.

“After that first game, we kind of moved [Morgan] and [Emily] Solek around, and I think it’s benefited both of them,” James said. “Solek is more commanding when she’s running the point, and it opens Morgan up. And she’s a slasher. When she’s not slashing, she can shoot the ball, so she gives us a totally different dimension there.”

The Cougars will stay busy heading into the holidays. They’ll travel to face Belleville at Detroit Edison Public Academy Saturday morning as part of a showcase tournament, then host Waterford Kettering Wednesday before a cross-town rivalry game at Rochester next Friday at 1 p.m.

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