Jan. 19—The Union High girls basketball team proved to Ellwood City Lincoln why they are the defending PIAA Class 1A champions on Thursday.
The Lady Scots cruised to a 62-34 road win over the Lady Wolverines in a nonsection contest.
"It's just another game for us; another building block. We wanted to come down here, (Ellwood City's) a school that's an upper classification compared to us. They're a triple-A school and they're playing pretty well right now," Union coach Rob Nogay said. "We wanted to come down and work on things and try to get after them defensively. That's our motto since I've been here. We wanted to get after them on the defensive end and I thought we did a pretty good job at that. We shot the lights out in the first half so that's always a plus when you can do that."
Said Ellwood City coach Dena Noble of the loss, "We saw this week that (Union) is first in the state ranking. They deserve to be. They're a really good team, well coached, great players. They play together as a team and we didn't. That's what happens when you're not ready for a state championship team."
It was a slow start in the first quarter, but Union got things rolling after Bella Cameron and Kylie Fruehstorfer sank two 3-pointers apiece. Cameron and Fruestorfer netted five 3-pointers each in the game.
"Bella stepped up huge tonight. We know she's a good shooter. She shoots in practice, she makes them in practice, she steps up big for us in games and she definitely did it tonight," Nogay said. "Kylie, again, is one of our go-tos. Kylie stepped up and knocked some shots down."
Fruehstorfer paced Union (11-5) with 23 points, four assists and four steals.
"I think it's another one of our games that we really played hard and worked together as a team. It's just more practice for us to get ready for more section games," Fruehstorfer said. "In practice, we shoot a lot of 3s. In the game, we just keep saying, 'Keep shooting. Keep shooting.' It's always the next shot for us and once we're hitting, we're hitting. We were on tonight."
Ellwood City (11-6) tried to put defensive pressure on Union's Kelly Cleaver early on in the game by having Claire Noble defend her.
"We were in a zone press for a while and went back to a man-to-man (defense). Kelly's a really good player and Claire didn't execute and Kelly did," Coach Noble said. "They held Claire to three points and Claire is one of our leading scorers so that goes to show you how that went."
Cleaver netted 22 points for the Lady Scots and produced 11 boards, six assists and five steals.
"Kelly cleaver did a great job on both sides of the court tonight," Nogay said. "I couldn't be happier for our girls and more proud of them. I thought they worked really hard. There are nights that one person is going to be the top scorer and there are nights another one is going to be that for us. That's the way we play. We have bigger goals here and that's what we were looking to achieve."
Union held a 24-9 lead over the Lady Wolverines at the end of the first quarter.
Mia Preuhs had a solid defensive game right off of the bat for Union. Preuhs had three steals for Union.
"Mia Preuhs plays awesome defense all of the time," Nogay said. "We know we're getting that out of Mia."
The Lady Scots outscored Ellwood City again in the second quarter to enter halftime with a 45-19 lead. Said coach Noble of the talk at halftime, "We went over their press. Whatever they did last year — we watched so much film on them this year — nothing they did was a surprise to us. We just didn't step up and execute."
Union had a rough start to the third quarter and couldn't net a bucket until 4:35 remained in the quarter. Nogay said the team was "just a little sluggish on our part coming out," in the third, adding, "I don't think we got after them real well defensively in the beginning of the second half. We were a little sluggish on offense and threw the ball away a couple of times. We have to clean that stuff up and I'll take care of that stuff in practice."
Kayla Jones paced Ellwood City with 18 points. She scored 10 of those points in the third quarter.
"Kayla is a consistent scorer for us, luckily," Coach Noble said. "She does come up with some big shots when we need them. She's very coachable. She'll do what you ask her to do. I said, 'We need you,' and she said, 'Okay coach.'"
After turning things around, Union's Fruehstorfer sank a 3-pointer with 32 seconds left in the third quarter to take a 60-29 lead and force the clock to run continually because of the mercy rule.
Union hosts Riverside at 7:30 p.m. Monday.
Ellwood City travels to Neshannock at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.