TOLEDO — It wasn’t always the prettiest, and there are certainly rough edges to be buffed and polished. But nobody from Toledo was getting worked up over the small stuff after the 2B Riverhawks defeated 2A Mark Morris 34-28 in a non-league girls basketball game Thursday at George Murdoch Gymnasium.
The game was the season debut for both teams and there were plenty of burls in the bark for all to see. Namely, both teams struggled for lengthy stretches to find any flow on offense. At times a general stagnation befell both teams with shot clock violations and ten second backcourt whistles plagued the pace of play. More often, though, shots were simply not falling through the cylinder.
That problem was especially troublesome for the visiting Monarchs.
“In the first half we were getting wide open looks, we just did not knock them down,” Mark Morris coach Sean Atkins said. “This is a frustrating one just because I know how much better we can play, and shoot in particular.”
Meanwhile, Toledo took the lead from the start and ran out its lead to as many as nine points in the second quarter when the scoreboard read 22-13 with 2:33 remaining before halftime.
Greenlee Clark handled the point guard duties for Toledo and led the team with 12 points. Her contributions went far beyond the scoring column, too, collecting at least a handful of both rebounds and assists that still only manage to tell part of her story.
“She’s just everywhere,” Toledo’s Vanessa Rodriguez said of Clark, a fellow senior. “She’d be outside the three-point line and somebody would shoot a shot inside and she’d be there before the people who were already under the basket. She was just constantly getting rebounds and fighting through everything.”
Clark’s efforts helped the home team stake out a 25-20 lead before the intermission. But after the three point pop-a-shot festivities were completed at halftime the nets received a reprieve as the teams combined for just six points over the eight minutes of the third quarter.
The offensive lethargy worked to the Monarchs’ favor, at least momentarily. Mark Morris entered the final quarter trailing by just three points but was never able to summon the offensive burst they needed to curdle Toledo’s visions of an upset.
“I want to say we were probably close to 3-for-30 from three-point land,” Atkins said. “We just did not make that shot to get us going. We just could not gain that extra momentum to get us pointed in the right direction.”
Emma Fisher scored a team-high 14 points for Mark Morris. Brooklyn Schlect was the next leading scorer on the team with six points and Erica Snyder made her presence felt by hauling in ten rebounds and blocking a trio of shots.
For Toledo, Vanessa Rodriguez and Taylor Langhaim were instrumental in the defensive efforts that kept the Monarchs stymied for the duration.
“I attribute it to changing up the defenses a little bit,” Toledo coach Rand Wood said. “I was just looking to see how we would respond, changing from man to zone, if we could figure it out in transition.”
Rodriguez tallied three blocks and five rebounds to go with nine points and Lanhaim scored six points while pulling down five rebounds.
“You can see that we don’t have a ton of height so that’s something that we’ve been working on; get position and then go get the ball instead of waiting for it to hit the floor and then going to get it,” Wood said.
This season Wood has taken over as head coach of the Toledo girls varsity team with former head coach Brian Layton shifting over to coach the JV team. With that coaching shuffle comes an assortment of changes that the Riverhawks' players are still adjusting to but upsetting a larger school in front of your home fans is known to work wonders for the symptoms of unfamiliarity.
“We’ve been working on these new plays and we were just trying to get those to work, because in practice our varsity team goes against the JV, which isn’t as competitive as a 2A team,” Rodriguez said. “Today we were trying to see how these plays were going to work against a bigger team.”
As for Wood, he’s looking around the roster and he likes what he sees for the Riverhawks of today as well as tomorrow.
“I’m really excited about our younger girls coming up, but of course we’re really leaning on Vanessa and Greenlee a lot,” Wood said. “We’re leaning on them and relying on Taylor to control the post for us.”
Over on the Monarchs bench, Atkins was similarly pondering which players might be ready to step up and provide some push as the season goes on. But he won’t be able to think for long because Mark Morris was due for a trip to Kelso to play the Hilanders less than 24-hours after the final horn in Toledo.
And still, Atkins likely wouldn’t need the time to think, anyhow. With players like Fisher and Schlect and Snyder, along with combo guards like Maddie Noel and Isabella Merzoian, he’s confident his team has the right pieces to put the puzzle together, eventually.
“Before the game tomorrow we’ll get to the gym and get a bunch of shots up and hope for the best, because we’ve got a different animal coming up,” Atkins said. “With that starting core, we’ve got to be able to rely on them for about 40-50 points per game.”
Toledo (1-0) was scheduled to play at home again Saturday against Mt. Vernon. Mark Morris (0-1) was slate to play at Kelso on Friday before hosting Heritage on Monday.