Steel Valley blitzed in 2nd half of setback
Steel Valley sophomore forward C.C. Dixon was having her way with Bishop Canevin.
After already conceding Dixon a double-double — 10 points and 10 rebounds — to send the host Lady Ironmen into halftime with a six-point lead in Thursday's Section 5-AA contest, Lady Crusaders coach Tim Joyce was poised to do something about it.
“We wanted to maybe make it more of a full-court game,” he said.
Joyce wasn't kidding.
Behind a stifling man-to-man full-court press defense, Bishop Canevin allowed just eight points, and one field goal, in the second half and shook off a slow start to hand Steel Valley a 49-33 loss.
The Lady Ironmen (7-6, 4-2) committed 22 turnovers in a game that, through the first 16 minutes, left the Lady Crusaders (10-1, 5-0) looking vulnerable to end what is now a nine-game winning streak.
“One field goal in the second half definitely is not going to get you into any type of rhythm,” eighth-year Steel Valley coach Kelly Sabo said. “I thought we played a great first half and it just seemed that a couple quick turnovers in that second half and we kind of got down on ourselves. The ball wasn't going in the hoop for us and we were getting the opportunities. Sometimes that happens.”
Dixon finished with a team-high 12 points and 14 rebounds, but the Lady Ironmen failed to record a single field goal in the second half until Melissa Cerda came off the bench and made a layup with 1:33 left in the fourth quarter.
At that point, Steel Valley was trailing 43-29.
“I think we just got out of our game,” Sabo said. “I think a lot of it we took ourselves out of the game. That's something we have to work more on, the pressure.”
Bishop Canevin outscored the Lady Ironmen 20-8 in the second half.
Guard Celina DiPietro made four 3-pointers and finished with 14 points to lead the Lady Crusaders, while Maddy McGuire contributed 13 and Carly Forse added 10.
It was his team's pressure defense in the second half, however, which really left the most lasting impression on the Bishop Canevin coach.
“The kids, they did what we wanted them to do,” Joyce said. “It took us a little while to get going, but we knew we had a chance.”
Steel Valley took control of the game with a 12-6 run, which was punctuated by a Taylor Szczepankowski basket in transition with 2:45 left in the first quarter.
In the second quarter, the Lady Ironmen would lengthen their lead to as much as 25-16 following a pair of consecutive baskets by Dixon.
“I think C.C. is one of those players that can really take over a game,” Sabo said. “We felt we had a good mismatch underneath for her. She was reading the doubles great. When she was getting doubled she was making the right kicks and when it was one-on-one she was making her single-and-double moves and just putting the ball in the bucket.
“That was the big key in the first half,” the coach added. “She was just attacking the rim.”
After Bishop Canevin made just one of 10 attempts from beyond the 3-point arc to take a 25-19 deficit into the second half, DiPietro began to catch fire from the field to take control of the game.
DiPietro's second 3-pointer of the game tied the score at 25-25 with 3:47 left in the third quarter before McGuire later made another 3-pointer to hand the Lady Crusaders their first lead of the game, at 28-27.
“We came out flat in that second half and we didn't have the intensity,” Sabo said. “They picked up their intensity and that seemed to be the difference in the second half.”
For the game, Bishop Canevin made five of 17 3-point attempts, while Steel Valley failed to convert on seven 3-point tries.
The Lady Ironmen return to action with a non-section game at Southmoreland at 7:30 p.m. on Monday.
Sabo's young team, which does not feature a senior in its starting lineup, then will host Section 5-AA first-place Seton-LaSalle (11-2, 5-0) next Thursday.
“We just take it one game at a time,” Sabo said. “We definitely feel that we can compete with anyone and we also know that there are some things we can work on to make this team better.”