Girard stays united and undefeated
Despite a key injury, the Indians managed to hold off Brookfield, 48-44.
By BRIAN RICHESSON
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
GIRARD -- Focus fades quickly when a teammate, senior leader and friend is lost to injury.
Especially this way, with a gruesome fall and the accompanying sobs of pain.
No one can ever be totally prepared for moments like these, when players such as Girard High senior guard Angela Ragazzine severely injures her ankle doing what she does best -- playing defense.
"We were all trying to be strong; we all wanted to start crying," said senior Erin Walters after the Indians' 48-44 victory over Brookfield on Monday at Girard High.
"You could see the pain she was in, and it made us all want to break down," Walters added. "We knew we had to pull it together."
The injury occurred with 25.7 seconds remaining before halftime.
Hustling down court to defend a Brookfield fast break, Ragazzine extended to break up a pass. She fell awkwardly on her right ankle and remained on the gym floor for several seconds before crying.
Girard coach Andy Saxon was waiting for word Monday night on the severity of her injury.
"We had to dig deep. We had to dig deep for Ange," said Girard junior Cachet Murray, a tear running down her face. "It's kind of hard when you lose the best defensive player on your team. It's kind of hard."
After Ragazzine was helped to her feet and supported by crutches, Murray gently held her teammate's head to her own and offered some inspirational words.
Then, Ragazzine, in obvious pain, walked out of the gym on crutches.
"She's the sweetest person in the world," Murray said. "She hustles for everything, all the time. She plays every game like it's her last, and she's the person who picks the team up."
Murray scored a team-high 22 points, but struggled in the second half, making only 3-of-10 free throws as Brookfield climbed back into the game.
"If I have a bad play, she's the person to say, 'Cachet, it's OK. It's OK,' " Murray said of Ragazzine. "But once I started having my bad play, I didn't have that [support]."
Murray entered play Monday 33 points shy of 1,000 for her career. She needs only 11 to reach that mark Thursday at Liberty.
"That's what I was thinking about until Angie got hurt, and then after that, there was nothing else to think about but, 'Is she going to be OK?' " Murray said.
Ragazzine is one of Girard's three seniors, with Walters and Justine Christopher. They've been best friends for years, Walters said, playing basketball together starting in the third grade.
"She always has a smile on her face, and she would never hurt a fly," Walters added of Ragazzine. "She's just awesome."
Brookfield (7-7, 4-4) made a gallant comeback and nearly pinned the first Trumbull Athletic Conference loss on Girard (13-1, 8-0).
After trailing by 16 points, the Warriors cut their deficit to 43-40 with three minutes remaining in the game.
Igniting the comeback was junior guard Rachel Pasquerilla, who put on a fabulous shooting display. She made six 3-pointers -- four in the fourth quarter -- and scored 22 points.
"She's been struggling the last couple of games, but she stepped up and hit some big shots," Brookfield coach Shawn Hammond said.
Senior Kaitlyn Nasci added 10 points for the Warriors.
Ragazzine made a 3-pointer in the first quarter and finished with five points before the injury, which weighed on everyone's mind.
"We won that for her," Walters said. "It was definitely our game plan after that happened."