Bulldogs win preview of postseason
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.