Bull­dogs win pre­view of post­sea­son

The Morning Journal (Lorain, OH) - - SPORTS - By Matt Lof­gren sports@morn­ingjour­nal.com @MJour­nal Sports on Twit­ter

Rarely is there a po­ten­tial district fi­nals matchup just days be­fore the girls state bas­ket­ball tour­na­ment be­gins. But that was ex­actly what was on the slate for Feb. 14 as Olm­sted Falls, No. 2 in the Elyria district, hosted No. 1 Strongsville.

Olm­sted Falls tore out on a hot start and used that mo­men­tum to down the Mus­tangs, 54-51, on se­nior night to give the Bull­dogs all the con­fi­dence in the world headed into the post­sea­son.

Draped in rib­bons, bal­loons and cheers through­out the arena, Olm­sted Falls cel­e­brated se­nior night with its only se­nior, Sarah Bal­four, and Bal­four cel­e­brated in her own way with a huge dou­ble-dou­ble per­for­mance, in­clud­ing 22 points and 10 re­bounds.

Lead­ing the Bull­dogs on a tor­rid start by drop­ping nine 3s in the first half, Olm­sted Falls coach Jor­dan Ea­ton said the start his team had was the key to get­ting this big win.

“The first quar­ter was huge and we talk about that ev­ery game. but we know Strongsville’s re­ally, re­ally good, so we knew that first three-four min­utes was go­ing to be huge,” Ea­ton said. “If we could han­dle the ball and get qual­ity shots, I told them we’d be just fine and that’s what we re­ally worked on in prac­tice. We worked on a lot of pres­sure sit­u­a­tions. I was re­ally proud of it and that first quar­ter was big for us and for us to de­fend the way we did giv­ing up sin­gle dig­its to a team that is that big and that good, it’s turned into a mind­set for us.”

Knock­ing down or as­sist­ing on the first five bas­kets of the game, Bal­four was the mo­tor that pow­ered Olm­sted Falls’ run to a 18-7 lead af­ter the first quar­ter.

“It was def­i­nitely good to come out with a bang in the be­gin­ning, show them that we’re re­ally all about the in­ten­sity,” Bal­four said. “Then we kept it through the whole en­tire game, which was good as well.”

Be­ing that driv­ing force be­hind this team is noth­ing

new to Bal­four as she played her fi­nal reg­u­lar sea­son game at home. All Ea­ton could say was how proud he was to have a player like Bal­four to help es­tab­lish a pow­er­house pro­gram.

“Sarah is a kid who tire­lessly works on her of­fen­sive game and there’s noth­ing she can’t do on of­fense,” Ea­ton said. “South­east­ern Mis­souri State’s get­ting a re­ally good one and they’re lucky. But I cant say enough about her. She’s our only se­nior and she was a fresh­man my first year, so I scared the rest of them off and some­how she made it through. She’s just one of those kids you can trust in sit­u­a­tions like tonight. Just a kid who has been a plea­sure and a coach’s dream to coach for four years.”

De­spite fac­ing a 10-point or big­ger deficit for most of the game, like all good teams, Strongsville made a run late that put the pres­sure on the Bull­dogs.

Ea­ton’s group closed out the game with a knowhow to win ball games.

“We’ve been pretty good in that depart­ment and hav­ing a lead late in the game and to­day we didn’t do ev­ery­thing we needed to do to ex­e­cute from an in­bounds stand­point at times and we missed a cou­ple that we got from our in­bounds plays that I have faith the next time we run those plays and get those shots, we’ll def­i­nitely knock those down and be able to keep that sep­a­ra­tion,” Ea­ton said. “But, Strongsville’s ath­letic and they’re so good. They weren’t go­ing away. But I’m still check­ing the score­book to make sure they’re not still press­ing us.”

With mar­quee wins over big teams like Avon, BereaMid­park and now Strongsville, Bal­four was all busi­ness when it came to what comes next for the Bull­dogs.

“It’s def­i­nitely a con­fi­dence booster go­ing into the tour­na­ment and as you said, we’re just go­ing to look at the next game that is next Thurs­day,” Bal­four said.

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