Fast start, late baskets give Ramettes victory

JOHNSONBURG – The Ramettes regrouped Friday for a 54-31 win against visiting Curwensville as District 9 teams make their final push for the playoffs in the next two weeks.Backed by a 15-point performance from junior Brittany Watts and 14 points from sophomore Chelsea Benson, Johnsonburg stretched their record to 11-7 with four games remaining on the schedule.The latest victory, however, was not pretty."I told our players not to play down their competition and they started out strong, then we lapsed and started forcing things-- we missed a lot of layups, but we bounced back in the second half and put Curwensville away," said Johnsonburg head girls basketball coach Mike Zilkofski.The Ramettes jumped out to a quick 8-0 lead with trap defense and later held a 17-5 lead midway through the first quarter. Senior Kiana Myers got things rolling with a layup at the tip and put in a 3-pointer at the 7:40 mark for an immediate 5-0 lead. Benson would later score a layup and subsequent foul shot on the play to up the lead to 8-0.Curwensville's Ciara Strickland, who paced the visitors with 10 points on the night, drained a trey with 6:45 on the clock before Benson went coast to coast for a layup at 10-3 lead. After Curwensville's Savannah Strickland put in two free throws, Watts hit a layup and senior Danie Jo Dwyer followed with a 3-pointer for the 15-5 lead. Watts would follow with another layup with 3:26 on the clock for a 17-5 advantage before Johnsonburg was shutdown for the rest of the first quarter.Curwensville's Becca Johnson put in two shots down the stretch to cut the lead to eight points going into the second quarter.The Ramettes were able to regroup and ran off a 11-0 run with a 3-point play from Watts, followed by layups from Benson and junior Rhianon Fowler for a 24-11 lead.Both teams were scoreless for the next three minutes of the quarter as neither team was able to hit a clean shot."It seems like we're going out in runs-- we start out hot, then we go in a lapse, then we go on another run but then go down again," Zilkofski said. "I just told them that we have to make our layups and cut down on the turnovers, and make our foul shots."Benson later connected on two free throws with 2:34 to go in the first half and Watts followed with a shot in the paint for a 28-11 lead. Curwensville's Savannah Strickland went to the line four times down the stretch and came away with three points to cut the lead to 28-14. A jumper from Johnsonburg's McKenna Rowles just before halftime gave the Ramettes a 30-14 lead.The Lady Tide tried to stick around in the second half and trimmed the lead to 12 points before the long range shots finally started to fall for Johnsonburg.Fowler hit a 3-pointer with 5:13 on the clock for a 33-18 lead; Watts and Benson later hit consecutive layups for a 17-point cushion. After Ciara Strickland cut the lead back down to 14 points with her second 3-pointer of the night, Watts and Heather Thorp traded shots in the paint for a 39-25 score.Myers would close out the third quarter with a 3-bomb of her own for a 42-25 advantage; the Ramettes, however, would continue their long range prowess as Benson and Myers hit consecutive treys for a 48-25 lead."We had a nice run in the second half and that put them away," Zilkofski said.Watts hit a jumper in the paint with 4:42 on the board to cap her 15-point night.Despite win No. 11 on the season, Zilkofski said his team has key issues to address heading into postseason play."We've worked on the missed layups in practice and there are some easy ones that we missed," Zilkofski said. "This late in the season, we shouldn't be having that. We're working on that and I guess it's pick your poison-- missed layups or missed foul shots-- it seems like it's one of the other. In the last Kane game, we had missed opportunities at the line and that cost us the game. "Against DuBois Central Catholic, we made our foul shots and we won the game. We're just going in streaks with the foul shooting."Heading into the final two weeks of the season, Johnsonburg travels to Ridgway for a rematch Feb. 7, then play host to visiting Brockway Feb. 10. The final week of the season has Johnsonburg traveling Feb. 13 for a game against Brookville before closing out the regular season at home against St. Marys."We beat Kane and St. Marys this season, those are two of the positives toward a successful season, and we only beat DCC once last season so that's another positive," Zilkofski said. "We're going in the right direction but once we hit teams like Elk County Catholic, once we're able to beat that caliber of a team, then we're really pushing toward a successful season. "I hope our record will be better than what it was last year as we lost to Kane twice and St. Marys three times. We're building on that and we're one stop better as a team, beating Kane, beating DCC twice, and beating St. Marys. For now, we're going in the right direction."However, Zilkofski expects two early season disappointments to come back and bite the Ramettes, a 46-42 home loss Dec. 19, 2011 against Cameron County followed by 47-39 loss two days later at Smethport."Those are going to hurt us for the seedings but if we see either one of those two teams in the playoffs, I think we can give them a better game," Zilkofski said. "We're improving in every game but we still have those little things that we have to work on. With foul shooting, that takes you through the playoffs and I don't care what any other coach says; it's going to come down to foul shooting for some games where you have to hold the ball, go to the line and put the other team away. "That's one of my concerns down the stretch and we've been working on that. I hope the extra work that we've put into our foul shots carries over into the playoffs for us and the remaining games that we have."