Junior guard Kierstan Bell scored 25 points to lead McKinley, moving up another spot on Stark County’s all-time scoring list, but she also received plenty of help from her teammates
GREEN Winning games in the Federal League often turns into a grind for girls basketball teams.
As the league’s top team heading into the final stretch of the regular season, McKinley knows the grind well.
After a lackluster first half left the McKinley Bulldogs with a lead — but little else to be too encouraged by Saturday afternoon at Green High School — they turned up the energy. McKinley became more efficient and pulled away to a 59-39 win over Green.
Junior guard Kierstan Bell scored 25 points to lead McKinley (15-1, 7-1), as she moved up another spot on Stark County’s all-time scoring list by closing in on 1,800 career points.
Eight of her points came in the first six minutes of the third quarter when McKinley pushed its lead from 22-14 at the half to 42-22.
“We had a lot more energy coming out the first couple minutes of the third quarter,” said McKinley head coach Pam Davis, who earned career win No. 501. “We were getting out in our pressure leading to us scoring three or four quick, easy baskets. And that changed the momentum right there.”
It was more than Bell making the difference.
Freshmen guards Nakyah Terrell and Kyla Foster delivered big plays in that stretch, as did junior forward Jazzy Kramer.
“Our two freshman played well,” Davis said. “Jazzy did a lot of things that don’t show up on a score sheet … plays that lead to us getting extra possessions.”
Collectively, McKinley also started attacking the rim more instead of settling for 3-point shots.
“One thing we want to do is shoot more free throws than we do 3-point attempts, especially when we’re on the road,” Davis said. “We did not do that today. But we more aggressive in the second half.”
McKinley took 16 3s in the first half and attempted just two foul shots. The second half, though, McKinley launched only 10 3s and attempted 11 free throws.
Foster scored all six of her points in the third quarter, all coming in the paint. Kramer helped McKinley take control of the glass and scored three points in the quarter. Terrell also scored three during a 10-0 run to give McKinley its 42-22 lead.
“One thing always we always know with Kierstan, she really does look to get everyone involved,” Davis said.
Green (11-4, 5-4) used a zone defense that more or less morphed from a 2-3 into a box-and-one with one defender always tracking Bell and a second nearby.
“Kierstan commands so much attention, and deservedly so,” Davis said, “but the other people have to have confidence and knock down shots.”
Terrell finished with 13 points, six rebounds and three steals. Foster added seven rebounds and four steals. Kramer grabbed 11 rebounds, one more than Bell, to go with three steals and five points.
The Green Bulldogs, though, did not fade away after McKinley opened up its 20-point lead. Green ended the third quarter on a 7-0 run and then scored the first point of the final quarter to get within 42-30. Senior forward Erika Lovell scored six points in that stretch.
“Erica came off the bench and really gave us a spark,” Green head coach Tracy Miller said.
Lovell finished with eight points. Senior guard Jenna Trainer scored a team-high 17 for Green.
“Jenna Trainer had a really nice offensive game for us … and was all over the floor,” Miller said.
His Bulldogs, though, are short-handed inside, having lost 6-foot-3 sophomore Marissa Berlin to a season-ending knee injury earlier this month. With no one taller than 5-10 seeing significant minutes, Green was outrebounded 41-30.
“Our kids fought for four quarters,” Miller said. "McKinley is a darn good team. They’re well-coached and obviously they have the best player in the league in Bell. And they’re deep. They’ll run 15 kids at you.”
Senior guard Chamera Young was McKinley’s third double-figure scorer Saturday, scoring 10 points. Her layup and 3-pointer midway through the fourth helped McKinley pull away late.
Bell, the reigning Ms. Basketball in Ohio, became the county’s sixth all-time leading scorer, passing former East Canton star Katy Arick (1,789 career points). She has 1,799 points, as she is poised to become the sixth player in Stark history with at least 1,800 points.
“We’ve got a big week ahead with Jackson (on Wednesday) and Hoover (next Saturday),” Davis said.
So does Green, which plays GlenOak and Jackson.
“Obviously,” Miller said, “the grind of the Federal League continues.”
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