SINCLAIRVILLE - A week ago, coach Mark Petersen's Cassadaga Valley basketball team played a "ragged" game against Falconer, but still managed to get away with a win.
This week, against a better sized and more experienced opponent in Maple Grove, the Lady Cougars weren't so lucky.
Struggling to find ways to attack the Lady Red Dragons' 2-3 zone, Cassadaga Valley turned the ball over 17 times and scored more than 10 points in a period just once on the way to a 40-32 setback in the opening round of the Cassadaga Valley Basketball Tournament.
Cassadaga Valley’s Heather Ames (14) is surrounded by three Maple Grove defenders, who include, from the left, Alison Winchester (3), Mikaela Swanson and Lauren Nickerson in the Cassadaga Valley Tournament on Tuesday. See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
P-J photos by Rob Tucker
The loss dropped the hosts to 1-2 overall while Maple Grove, which was taking part in its first game this season, is now 1-0.
"They've got great size , they played good defense and they did a nice job of disrupting our shots," Petersen said following the loss, which puts his team in the consolation game against Falconer at 7 p.m. on Thursday.
"That's a nice sized team, they've got good height and they created turnovers, which is basically what did it."
Nickara Liddell led the victors in that department with seven steals to go along with 12 rebounds and five points. Emily Swanson chipped in with six rebounds and 10 points and Lauren Nickerson tallied a team-high 13 points with three blocks.
While both teams struggled from the field - the game was still close at half with Maple Grove leading 16-14 - it was the Lady Red Dragon defense that, in the end, helped the visitors pull away to start the third quarter.
"I thought our defense was great," Maple Grove coach Mary Bartkowski said. "At halftime the girls were a little upset (with how many points) they'd scored, but I said, 'On a positive note, look at their score. We are playing good defense, we've just got to keep plugging away.'"
That persistence finally paid off after the break.
Maple Grove went on, by the game's standards, a hefty 6-0 run over the first 1 minutes of the second half thanks in part to a trio of steals.
Swanson hit the first basket off an offensive rebound following a fast break and then hit a deep jumper in transition 30 seconds later while Nickerson chipped in with a bucket in the paint, also on a fast break following a turnover, to give Maple Grove a 24-16 edge.
"It was just bam, bam, bam," Bartkowski said of the crucial run. "(Emily) really came through big for us today."
Cassadaga Valley, meanwhile, in the face of continued pressure at their end, could muster just five more points the rest of the quarter.
Refusing to bow out, however, the Lady Cougars fought in the fourth until they had narrowed the lead to six points, 34-28, when Shawana Miller scored from the low block with a little more than three minutes remaining. But on the ensuing Maple Grove possession, point guard Liddell was left unguarded at the top of the arc and the senior opted to drop in a triple that all but clinched the victory.
"I'm disappointed," Petersen said. "I thought we would get a run in there at some point, but it just didn't happen for us tonight."
Miller recorded a double-double with 12 points and 13 rebounds while Krisi Zink had nine points and eight rebounds and Heather Ames seven rebounds, four points and a pair of steals in defeat.
MAPLE GROVE (40)
Nickerson 5 3 13, ESwanson 5 0 10, Adams 2 0 4, Ahlstrom 1 1 4, Liddell 2 0 5, MSwanson 1 0 2, Winchester 1 0 2. Totals 17 4 40.
CASSADAGA VALLEY (32)
Miller 4 4 12, Zink 3 3 9, Ames 2 0 4, Burch 1 0 3, Johnston 1 0 2, Carroll 0 2 2. Totals 11 9 32.
3-point goals: Ahlstrom, Liddell, Burch.
Maple Grove11 5 12 12 - 40
Cassadaga Valley8 6 7 11 - 32