East Palestine keeps pace in crowded EOAC standings

Sports
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The East Palestine Bulldogs girls’ basketball team are in a real dog fight in the closing weeks of the season.  Pun definitely intended.  Thursday night they kept pace with both Lisbon and United in the race for second place in the EOAC with a dominating 50-28 victory over the Southern Indians on the Bulldogs home court.

The victory lifts the Bulldogs to 13-4 on the season, and 9-3 in the EOAC.  Lisbon, United, and the Bulldogs are all within a game of each other as they battle for second place in the league.  The Indians drop to 4-13 on the year, 2-11 in the league.

“For us, right now because in the past we have never been playing for second place,” Bulldogs coach Will Franklin said of the importance of the win.  “The girls really want that (second place), so we are working every day to try to get that.  For us to finish in the top of the league at second place is something we are striving for right now.”

“We just had a game last night so it was big for us to see how we were going to play in back-to-back games,” Dogs junior center Jaliyah Mixon remarked.  “Halfway through the season, and everybody is like are they going to pull through or did they just get lucky the first half of the season?  So it feels really good.”

“East Palestine, great job,” Indians coach Mike Skrinjar credited the Bulldogs.  “They play well and coach (Franklin) has them up and down the floor.  They like to get out and run fast-break, and the Mixon girl gets up and down the floor really well and she is very aggressive.”

The Bulldogs raced out to a 16-5 lead at the end of the first quarter with Mixon helping to lead the way with 6 points and 3 rebounds in the opening frame.   But the Indians seemed to find their game and closed to within 5 points at 16-11 courtesy of a basket in the paint from Riley Felton at the 5:15 mark of the second quarter.  The Bulldogs responded as Kenzee Johnston and Sara Buskirk both scored in consecutive trips down the floor to push the Dogs advantage back out to 11 at 22-11 with 3:06 remaining in the first half.  The Dogs would close with a 7-4 run to hold a 29-14 lead at the intermission.

The Bulldogs took advantage of 12 Indian first-half turnovers while only committing 4 of their own.  But more importantly, the Bulldogs converted many of those miscues by the Indians into uncontested points.

“For us, transition is the kind of team we wanted to be this year,” Franklin explained.  “Tonight was a night where we were able to capitalize and get in the passing lanes and get some knockdowns with some layups.”

“In the beginning, we had 9 turnovers which constituted a lot of layups on the other end,” Skrinjar admitted.  “We’re trying to eliminate that.  That’s one of our issues this year with turnovers and trying to take care of the ball.”

The Bulldogs really put their foot down to start the second half as they went on a 7-0 run to start the half, pushing their lead to 21-points at 36-15 following two baskets by Joclyn Fristik and one Johnston.  They would pull out to a 26-point advantage at 46-20 with less than a minute left in the third stanza, but the Indians closed the frame with a long three-pointer by Felton to cut the deficit to 46-23.

Neither team would mount much of an offensive charge in the final quarter as both teams substituted freely.  The Indians would outscore the Bulldogs 5-4 in the period to make it the final 22-point margin of 50-28.

The Bulldogs were led by Fristik with 17 points on the night while Mixon record 14 and Johnston had 11.  Buskirk led the Dogs with 8 rebounds while Mixon and Fristik each grabbed 4 caroms.

“I know it’s late in the season, but they are still learning,” Franklin remarked about his young team made up of mostly juniors and sophomore.  “We just keep trying to get better every time.”

Senior forward Riley Felton led the Indians with 14 points in the game.  She would also gather 8 rebounds while Aubianna Mellott would pull down 5.

“I told our girls there are times when they play great basketball,” Skrinjar said of his team.  “And then there are other times when turnovers happen or we don’t play well at all.  If we can get some consistency in all four quarters, we have had some great success.”

The Bulldogs will play at Wellsville on Tuesday before they play a key game at home with United next Thursday.  The Indians return to action on Monday when they host Lisbon.

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