GALION — Crestline outscored Galion 23-7 in the fourth quarter to escape with a 41-34 victory in the season opener for the Lady Bulldogs on Tuesday.
Trailing 27-18 at the end of the third period, Crestline (1-0) outpaced the Tigers 16-3 over a five-minute span in the fourth quarter to build a 34-29 lead. Galion pulled to within three points after junior Heaven Phelps hit one of two fouls shots with 2:37 left, but Crestline connected on five of six free throws — senior Ivy Stewart went 4-for-4 — down the stretch to seal the win.
“Defense leads to offense. We turned the press on,” Crestline Head Coach Kyle Strauch responded when asked about the key to his club’s win. “No summer (workouts) and we only had two scrimmages, so most of these girls aren’t in shape. They’re still working into it. So it was a fine line, when do I start pressing or will they wear out? I think we found a good spot. (Galion) had a hard time adjusting to our press and we turned defense into offense.”
Crestline senior Daija Sewell led all scorers with 13 points, scoring seven in the fourth quarter. She hit a key field goal in the closing minutes that put the Lady Bulldogs ahead by eight points. Sewell had nine rebounds.
Stewart added 10 points, chipping in six points in the key fourth quarter, and four assists. She went 5-for-8 at the foul line.
Senior Hannah Delong and sophomore Maddie Engler added seven points apiece. Sophomore Dalani Kiser and junior Jocelyn Morgan chipped in with two points each. Kiser grabbed eight rebounds.
Junior Natalee Perkins, a second-team All-Mid Ohio Athletic Conference performer last season, led Galion with a double-double, 11 points and 13 rebounds. She got into early foul trouble, picking up two personal fouls in the first period. Perkins played through the foul trouble and stayed in the game. She connected on 3-of-4 foul shots.
Sophomore Dezi Lester contributed 10 points for the Tigers and was active at both ends of the floor, helping to fuel a 10-0 run in the third period that gave Galion a 23-16 cushion.
“Dezi Lester had an amazing game,” Galion Head Coach Shani Rush said. “If she can play like that every game, that’ll be really nice. Hopefully that’s her coming-out party. We get her scoring and she plays great defense for us and brings us energy. Getting her that experience this year is going to be really good. I’m really happy with her performance tonight.”
Junior Teanna Greter scored seven points and Phelps finished with six.
Turnovers plagued both squads throughout the scrappy contest. Crestline committed 24 and Galion had 21, including seven in the fourth quarter.
“We made some poor decisions with the ball,” Rush said. “We haven’t really been pressed yet. We haven’t really had many chances to work on it the way we would like with our scrimmages being so early. It’s a learning process, but we should’ve handled the ball better.”
Rush said the poor decision-making especially hurt the Tigers in the fourth quarter when they were nursing the nine-point advantage that eventually slipped away from them.
“We were taking jumpers when I said to take layups,” she said. “Because we were ahead I said nothing but a layup. We were taking shots and we didn’t have any rebounders down there. I think that hurt us.”
Galion (0-2) is off until Dec. 3 when the Tigers are scheduled to play host to two-time defending MOAC champion Shelby.
Crestline is scheduled to play Monday at Temple Christian. The Lady Bulldogs were scheduled to play Friday at Ridgedale, but that game has been canceled, according to Ridgedale’s schedule on the OHSAA website.
In junior varsity action, Crestline defeated Galion, 38-23.