By Frank Aceto | record publishing co.
Most coaches probably can't bear to watch players shoot half-court shots during practice.
Not Ravenna head girls basketball coach Sonny Tilden.
"We practice those shots every day," he said. "If the whole team makes a half-court shot, the whole team gets candy bars."
So when guard Deja Sanders buried a 45-footer during the Ravens' convincing 56-32 road win over Streetsboro on Wednesday night, everyone got a treat, right?
"No, not this time," Tilden said with a wide smile.
Ravenna, thanks to its relentless pressure defense and lightning-quick uptempo offense, overwhelmed the Rockets, who did not have enough speed to keep up with the talented Ravens.
Ravenna improved to 9-6 overall and 7-2 in the Portage Trail Conference Metro Division. Streetsboro dropped to 3-10 overall and 2-7 in the division.
It didn't take long for the Ravens to put the contest out of reach.
Ravenna jumped out to a 13-1 lead and forced 13 turnovers in the opening quarter.
And of course, there was that half-court shot the team has been trying to master.
Sanders, who finished with a game-high 16 points, gladly obliged by knocking down the buzzer-beating heave. That shot gave the Ravens a 29-6 lead after one quarter of play.
"That was a nice shot," Tilden said. "I told her, 'That's why we practice that shot.'"
Ironically, that was the only long-distance shot Ravenna made in the quarter.
The Ravens did the rest of their scoring inside the painted area as they took advantage of several fastbreak opportunities.
Ravenna's high-powered offense hit an unexpected lull in the second period.
Perhaps because they took their foot off the gas due to their sizable advantage, the Ravens had trouble taking care of the ball.
Ravenna committed 12 turnovers and didn't score its first field goal until four minutes into the period.
Still, despite playing some of stellar defense of their own, the Rockets didn't have much luck trimming their deficit.
The Rockets struggled to make shots and even though they drew plenty of contact, they struggled to make their free throws.
"They're a quick team," Streetsboro head coach Allison Carey said of the Ravens. "Their three starting guards have a lot of speed."
The fastest player of that trio is point guard Moe Moe Smith.
The standout senior scored 10 points, dished out several assists and raised havoc throughout the night with her tireless defense. Ravenna's other standout guard is Jalynn Starks, who finished with seven points.
"Moe Moe is the catalyst," Tilden said. "She makes the whole team go. Overall, I was happy with everyone."
The Ravens laid off their pressure in the second half and had a much more difficult time scoring.
Nevertheless, the outcome had long been decided.
That didn't mean the Rockets threw in the towel, though. They continued to play strong defense and made Ravenna work on every possession. Streetsboro just couldn't make shots and had a difficult time keeping the more athletic Ravens off the glass.
Ravenna had a 34-22 edge on the boards. Both teams struggled from the foul line. The Ravens made 4-of-12, while Streetsboro canned just 6-of-19. The two teams also combined for 51 turnovers.
Forward Alison Targosky and guard Mikaela Dombrowski led the Rockets with nine and eight points, respectively.
"In the second half, we wanted to do three things," Carey said. "We wanted to have more energy on defense. We wanted to drive more and get more easy scoring opportunities and we wanted to box out and rebound better. I thought we did that in the second half."