South Range girls hold off West Branch

Lynnie Ritter led the Raiders with a team-high 16 points in the victory.

CANFIELD, Ohio (WKBN) – The South Range Raiders wanted to test themselves against a program the quality of one like West Branch. On Monday night they passed the test.

Led by senior forward Lynnie Ritter, the Raiders fought back from a four point deficit in the fourth quarter to knock off the Warriors 50-46. With the victory the Raiders improve to 19-2 on the season while the Warriors drop to 11-10.

“This is exactly why we scheduled them,” Raiders coach Tony Matisi said. “I really didn’t know what we had. We handled the league, we handled our other schedule pretty well, but we really didn’t know what we had.”

“In my four years of playing in high school we have never beaten West Branch,” Ritter said. “The fact that we were with them the entire game was just incredible.”

The Raiders didn’t look like they were going to be able to compete with the Warriors early in the contest as the Warriors held a 9-point, 17-8 advantage at the end of the first quarter. But the Raiders would go on a 10-2 run to start the second stanza, grabbing a 20-19 lead with 1:38 remaining in the period courtesy of two free throws from Ritter. She would score 12 of her game-high 16 points in the first half of the contest.

“She can do that, she can do that,” Matisi exclaimed about Ritter keeping his team in the game. “Boy tonight she really bailed us out, keeping us around in that first quarter, keeping us around to halftime.”

“We all knew they were going to face guard Morgan (Czopur) and Maddie (Durkin) and so my girl was staying off me so I just shot and they were dropping,” Ritter explained.

The Raiders would lead the Warriors 26-22 at intermission, and then they stretched their lead to 6-points to start the second half at 28-22 before the Warriors went on a 9-2 run to take a 31-30 lead 4:51 remaining in the quarter on a Natalie Zuchowski basket. The two teams would exchange the lead here times before the end of the quarter with the Raiders leading 40-39.

The Warriors would retake the lead to start the fourth quarter, and would eventually lead by as much of four points at 44-40 before Ritter hit a basket with 1:54 remaining in the game to give the Raiders a 45-44 lead. With just over a minute remaining, Durkin would connect on two free throws to put the Raiders up by three at 47-44. Czopur would add two more free throws with less than 40-seconds left to seal the game. Meantime, the Warriors would only connect on 10 of 25 free throws.

‘It was a frustrating game to say the least,” Warriors coach Walter DeSheilds remarked. “We took a big lead, gave that up in the second quarter. We didn’t make our foul shots down the stretch. You can’t go 10 of 25 on the road and beat people. South Range is a very good basketball team at home.”

“We misjudged their speed and their strength,” Matisi admitted. “But we got a good gauge of it in the second quarter. I told them to keep the lead and be smart with the ball.”

The Warriors had even scoring on the night as Kayla Harvorka netted 12 points while Brenna Rito and Natalie Zuchowski each tallied 11. Zuchowski also grabbed 11 rebounds to pace the Warriors.

In addition to Ritter’s 16 points, Maddie Durkin was the only other Raider to score in double digits with 12 points. Durkin would also grab 8 rebounds to lead the Raiders on the boards.

The Warriors will host Tuslaw Wednesday night in their final regular season game of the year. They start tournament play Saturday when they host Crestwood. The Raiders close out the regular season when they host Canfield on Saturday night, and then start tournament play next Wednesday when they host Campbell.

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