Rovers reach goal

By David Carducci Record-Courier staff writer Published:

ROOTSTOWN- Paulette Colantone came to Rootstown with the task of rebuilding the girls basketball program and improving on last season's disappointing 5-16 campaign. The improvement is showing. The Rovers guaranteed themselves of finishing with a better record than a year ago, using a stifling fullcourt press to win their sixth game of the season 59-37 over Jackson-Milton in a non-league matchup Monday night at Rootstown. One of Colantone's goals for the season was to reach the .500 mark. "We've finally managed to get to .500 now," she said. "We are 6-6. That was one of our biggest goals, to get to .500 and to get as many wins as possible." Rootstown will continue to put itself in position to win games if it continues to play defense like it did against Jackson-Milton (2-7). The Rovers forced the Blue Jays into 10 or more turnovers in each quarter for an astonishing total of 41 in the game. "Our defense was definitely the key to winning this game," said Colantone. "We played very aggressive on defense. I was determined that we would press all game." The pressure had its greatest affect in the last 6:45 of the game when the Rovers allowed just two field goals while forcing nine turnovers during a 16-5 run that put the game away. Melissa Colecchi scored all of her eight points in the final quarter, including a 3-pointer with 45 seconds left to give Rootstown its largest lead of the game, 59-34. The Rovers took control early, scoring eight unanswered points to open the game, including six straight by freshman Anna Losh. Only the play of Jackson-Milton point guard Rachel Feher, who scored all eight of her team's points in the first quarter, kept the Blue Jays from being blown out early. Colantone turned to sixth-man Ashley Rykaceski to shut down Feher in the second half, and she responded by holding Jackson-Milton's top outside shooter scoreless in the third period as the Rovers turned a four-point halftime lead into an 11-point advantage at the start of the fourth quarter. Feher, who led all scorers with 14 points, only scored twice in the fourth quarter, hitting a 10-foot jumper with 6:45 left, and finishing the game with a long 3-pointer at the buzzer. "That move was really important for us," said Colantone. "My old assistant coach (of nine years at Revere) Kathy Harris came out of the stands at halftime and suggested putting Ashley on (Feher). That move and our staying with the press were the big reasons we won the game." Rykaceski's wasn't the only workman-like performance by a Rootstown player. The Rovers out-rebounded Jackson-Milton 56-39 thanks to the play of the starting frontcourt of Losh (15 rebounds), Valerie Cubon (10) and Nicole Nader (11). All three finished with double-doubles with Cubon and Losh each scoring a team-high 12 points and Nader adding 11. Nine different Rovers scored Monday night as Colantone continued to extend the playing time of her bench players. "The bench has been a really big help," said Colantone. "I used to run all the starters almost the entire game, now we are able to get four starters to take a break in every quarter so they are well rested down the stretch."

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