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    Richmond Heights edges Chagrin Falls in battle for top spot in Chagrin Division

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    RICHMOND HEIGHTS—Richmond Heights edged visiting Chagrin Falls on Wednesday, 36-35, in a battle for first place in the Chagrin Valley Conference Chagrin Division.

    With the win, the Spartans improved to 12-3 overall and 5-0 in league play while the Tigers dropped to 12-6, 6-1.

    “The first thing is resilience,” Richmond Heights head coach Eugene White said on what this win says about his team. “We had some mistakes down the stretch, and they came back down. We could’ve easily stopped playing, but we figured it out.”

    Richmond Heights controlled the early portion of the game. Tenacious defensive efforts from Mya Johnson and Nalasha Comer translated to fastbreak baskets on the other end. Honor Hall led the way with seven and notched an assist on a feed to MiAngel Harrell down low.

    As the quarter aged, Chagrin Falls started to find a groove offensively behind Lilly Stukus, who found the mark from behind the arc on three occasions in the first quarter. At the end of one, the two sides were in an 11-11 stalemate.

    The second quarter picked up from there with neither side gaining much of an advantage. Elena Goodwin’s efforts on the offensive glass were rewarded on a backdoor-cut layup and Stukus notched another three. Hall added six more to her total, but the Spartans went into the half down one.

    The third quarter was a defensive grudge match as neither side scored a point through the halfway mark. Johnson continued to hound the Tiger offense and Hall tallied six more, but Chagrin Falls’ work at the charity stripe kept the game locked at 27 entering the fourth.

    “They rank as one of the top teams in the area,” Chagrin Falls head coach Brittany Laseak said of Richmond Heights. “They won the Metro Division last season and moved up to the Chagrin Division, so you know you’re getting a tough opponent.”

    In a deadlock through three with the top team in the division the first year after moving up, the Spartans were poised for the moment. Coach White credits this to the team’s preparation with the back-to-back state champion boys’ program.

    “One of the great things about Richmond Heights is we also have a great boys’ team,” Coach White said. “We practice against the JV team, and it gives the girls confidence to know the things they work on and then actually work in the game.”

    Antwanise Darden scored four quick points to open the fourth quarter for the Spartans. A phenomenal sequence by Johnson consisted of a chase-down block followed by a steal and fastbreak layup attempt that sent her to the line where she had a perfect trip.

    The Tigers would not go away.

    A big-time three from Stukus would cut the game to a single possession. On the ensuing offensive series, Amelia Bencko trimmed it to two with 53 seconds left.

    “We were resilient,” Coach Laseak said. “We have grit and we’ve grown so much over the course of the season. I’m really hoping that this is something we can learn from moving forward.”

    Chagrin Falls remained a thorn in the Spartans’ side.

    The Tigers forced a jump ball, and turnover, and earned a trip to the charity stripe before the final buzzer. However, the Spartans outlasted Chagrin Falls, picking up a massive win in an incredible game.

    “Give Chagrin Falls a lot of credit. They play super hard and don’t give up,” Coach White said. “We play them Feb. 10 at their place and I’m pretty sure it’s going to be another bar fight.”

    Both squads will be back in action on Saturday. Richmond Heights looks to continue a two-game win streak at home against Toledo Waite, meanwhile, the road trip continues for Chagrin Falls in Streetsboro.

     

     

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