Kennedy advances, Springfield next
The Eagles beat Maplewood and now meet the unbeaten Tigers.
By BRIAN RICHESSON
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
HANOVERTON -- The Warren John F. Kennedy High girls basketball team relishes the underdog role and the challenge placed before it: undefeated Springfield.
Members of the Springfield team filed into the United High gym Monday to watch JFK defeat Maplewood 36-20 in a Division III sectional semifinal.
But the scouting sessions are over. It's time to play.
"You play a team that's 20-0 and you love to be the underdog," JFK coach Denise Smith said. "You hate to be the team that hasn't lost, because the pressure's on them."
In Monday's second game, Cardinal Mooney defeated Lisbon 46-37 to give Jack Bermann a tournament victory in his first season as coach.
JFK (13-6), which takes a seven-game winning streak into the sectional final Saturday at United, has played a competitive schedule, giving Smith and her players reason to believe.
"We know they're undefeated, but it's our time, too," JFK junior Alyssa Chaves said of second-seeded Springfield.
"It's going to be a great test for us," Smith added, "but we're truly up to it. We're looking forward to it."
Chaves was a big reason why JFK advanced past Maplewood, which had lost just once in 20 games coming into the tournament opener.
The only team to beat Maplewood: JFK -- 46-43 on Dec. 15.
"When we played back in December, our girls were still uncertain in some aspects of the game," Smith said of the narrow margin of victory. "Plus, Maplewood is without their point guard [the injured Jennifer Bell]. She hurt us in the first game."
Making an impact
This time, it was Chaves who hurt Maplewood.
She scored 11 of her game-high 16 points in the first half when JFK gained control by sinking 15-of-20 free throw attempts.
"We've been getting to the free throw line against the Hardings and the Howlands, and we had to continue to do that," Smith said. "If you're attacking the rim and getting to the foul line, it makes a world of difference."
Chaves, who added five steals, was 10-of-10 at the foul line until missing her final attempt in the fourth quarter. The Eagles were 22-of-37 at the line for the game.
"She's our leader in aggressiveness," Smith said of Chaves. "If she comes out with a strong start, everyone else seems to follow."
Junior Stephanie Schwartz had 12 points and 12 rebounds to lead Maplewood.
The Cardinals (7-14) led from start to finish and earned a sectional final meeting Saturday against Tri-County League co-champion Columbiana, the third seed.
"It doesn't get any easier," Bermann said.
"Like we told them, everybody starts 0-0 in the tournament," he added. "Three [wins] get you to the district final, and whatever happens, happens."
Junior Amber Bodrick scored eight of her game-high 20 points in the first quarter to spark Mooney. Junior Gina Brunetti added 10 points.
"It's been a learning process for both myself and the kids," Bermann said of his first season. "I'm learning to do what a head coach is supposed to do, and they're learning what I expect."
For Lisbon (10-11), junior Kim Davis scored 12 points while playing the fourth quarter with an injured right ankle. Senior Kelly Flory added 10.