Blue Jays overcome sluggish start to pull away from the Rockets

LOWELLVILLE, Ohio (WYTV) – With a healthy team, the Jackson-Milton Blue Jays are now focusing on closing out the season strong. They demonstrated what they are capable of as they overcame a sluggish start to pull away from Lowellville Monday night in a 64-25 win.

After starting the season with a number of injuries, the Blue Jays are now starting to roll as they improve to 14-3 on the season, and 7-0 in the ITCL’s Blue Tier. The Rockets drop to 2-12, 1-6 in the league.

“We had so many injuries at the start the season,” Blue Jays coach Pat Keney confirmed. “I had four kids with ankle injuries and one with a concussion. Our system, we are relying on quickness and pressing people because we are not big, we couldn’t do that with all these kids with hurt ankles.”

Although the Blue Jays won by 39-points, it was the Rockets that came out firing off the opening tip-off. They raced out to a 3-0 lead and trailed just 8-4 mid way through the first quarter. The Blue Jays would close the frame with an 7-0 run to hold a 15-8 lead at the end of the stanza.

“We didn’t come out strong like we did in our last game (72-22 win over Western Reserve), but I think we understood that we didn’t, and kind of started picking up the pace because we could see it on the scoreboard,” Blue Jays guard Ashley Totani remarked. “We weren’t playing to the best of our abilities.”

“We were sluggish,” Blue Jays coach Pat Keney admitted. “We didn’t come with the intensity that we need to come with. Lowellville was up for the game and they played hard. We had to pick it up a little bit.”

“I thought we came out hard, we gave them something different from last time,” Rockets head coach Lisa Modelski said. “Last time we played them it was a different story.”

It appeared that the Rockets might have recovered to start the second quarter when the Maria Mangine hit a three to close the deficit to 15-11, and they were still in striking range at 19-13 mid way through the second period. But from that point the Jays ramped up the defense as they caused 9 second quarter steals to power them on an 10-0 run before halftime. They would hold a 29-13 lead at the break.

“Coach always says to play all four quarters, and we needed to pick it up. So when we came out after halftime that was our goal to get back up,” Totani said.

“We had a lot of shots inside. We must have missed fifteen shots inside the paint,” Keney said of the first half. “We just had to calm down and put them in the basket, that’s all.”

The Blue Jays left little doubt of the ultimately outcome of the game starting the second half when Michaelina Terranova converted a steal into a momentum shifting easy layup and a 31-13 lead. Team mate Ashley Totani would follow up with a bucket and foul to extend the Jays lead to 35-13 less than two minutes into the half.

It wasn’t until Mangine hit a bucket at the 4:12 mark that the Rockets stopped the Blue Jays on their eight unanswered points run. However, the Blue Jays would close the quarter with a 41-20 advantage.

Mangine would lead the Rockets on the scoreboard with 7 points on the night. Mara Bellis would come off the bench to add 6 and Faith Borer chipped in with 5 points. Maddie Warren led them on the board with 6 rebounds.

The Blue Jays would continue to pull away in the fourth quarter as they started with a 10-0 run to lead 51-20 with just over six minutes left in the game. The Blue Jays would outscore the Rockets 13-5 in the final five minutes of the contest.

Ashley Totani led the Blue Jays with 21 points on the night followed by Terranova with 16. Kaitlyn Totani added 8 points and Emily Wilson chipped in with 7. Terranova also grabbed 6 rebounds to pace the Blue Jays on the boards.

“We all played as a team, and you can’t get things done if someone doesn’t dribble up the court and pass you the ball. So I think my team mates made it happen,” Totani reflected on her standout performance.

“I’m proud of our girls,” Modelski. “The second time around I think we did a good job preparing. We have some kids that are sick, that was a difference maker because we couldn’t do a lot of things we wanted to do defensively due to fatigue. Despite the record we are getting better every game so I’m happy with that.”

The Blue Jays will now travel to McDonald for a key ITCL Blue Tier battle on Thursday night. The Rockets will try to get back in the winning column as they host Sebring Thursday night.