MARIENVILLE – A second half littered with turnovers undid the Johnsonburg Ramettes.
Ten turnovers in the fourth quarter and 26 for the game thwarted any comeback chances in a 48-35 loss to East Forest in the first round of the District 9 Class A girls basketball playoffs Tuesday night at East Forest High School.
"It comes down to turnovers. We just looked lost out there," Johnsonburg coach Mike Zilkofski said. "You break the press, it's patience and taking your time. We forced too many shots, we had too many traveling violations. In the third quarter, we came out strong, we held them to four points in the third quarter and then the turnovers come back to haunt us again. It's missed opportunities too, we got a stop and then turned the ball over. It's missed opportunities plus the turnovers."
Johnsonburg had cut the deficit to three at 33-30 in the fourth quarter after Danie Dwyer made her second 3-pointer of the game. The Lady Bears would score five points in a row, four of which came on baskets from Morgan Simpson and Erica Long.
Dwyer made her third trey to cut the margin to 38-33 with 5:18 left in the game. Brittany Watts added a field goal near the midway point of the quarter to edge within three at 38-35. That would be the Ramettes' last field goal.
Two straight shots from Nicole Kahle extended the lead to 42-35 with 3:21 and Lauren Oliver added another hoop to put the lead at nine. Simpson added a late layup which put the lead at 11 and two free throws late in the game sealed it for the Lady Bears.
Watts led the Ramettes with 11 points but was in foul trouble for most of the game.
"With Brittany inside, it really hurt because we have to stop Oliver," Zilkofski said. "She matches up with her. We put Chelsea in the middle and she did a good job on her, they couldn't get the ball into her. We fronted her in the third quarter and they got some lobs in and we let Long penetrate too much. We kind of lost her. She got a lot of her points off steals off the press."
Watts picked up her second foul with 4:16 left in the second quarter and sat for the remainder of the half. East Forest led 19-14 at that point and pulled away with Watts on the bench, outscoring Johnsonburg 10-5 to take a 29-19 lead into halftime. Long opened the run with a field goal and Chelsea Benson added a free throw. Oliver and Rhianon Fowler alternated field goals before Long added two field goals sandwiched around an Oliver deuce. Kathryn Polaski closed out the half with a short field goal to pull the Ramettes within 10. After being stymied in the first quarter, Long would break out in the second quarter, scoring 10 of her 16 points.
"The first half started and Brittany got in foul trouble so I had to get her out of there," Zilkofski said. "I tried the 1-3-1 defense on the Long girl but she really wasn't hurting us in the first half. That's why I went to a 2-3 zone to help protect Brittany and Chelsea with foul trouble with Oliver underneath."
Johnsonburg recovered from the East Forest run to close out the half and stifled the Lady Bears in the third quarter as East Forest scored only four points. Johnsonburg opened with a 6-0 run to start the third as Dwyer opened with a trey. Watts hit a free throw and then added a 2-pointer to push the Ramettes within four at 29-25.
The Lady Bears would not score until the 2:22 mark of the quarter on a Long field goal. Foul trouble persisted for Johnsonburg as Chelsea Benson picked up three fouls in the span of less than a minute. Free throws would edge the Ramettes closer but Watts committed her fourth foul with 21 seconds left in the third quarter. Oliver closed out the third quarter with a field goal as East Forest led by six. Even with four fouls, Watts played the whole fourth quarter without fouling out.
The first quarter was evenly played as neither team led by more than three. Oliver and Watts alternated hoops to open the game then three straight points from Oliver had the Lady Bears ahead 5-2. Benson and Kiana Myers hit shots to push the Ramettes ahead 6-5. East Forest's Oliver and Nicole Kahle would answer with consecutive field goals as the Lady Bears led 9-6 at the 2:30 mark of the first quarter. A Benson layup was followed by a Kahle field goal. Benson and Simpson would hit shots before the quarter ended as East Forest led 13-10 at the end of the first quarter. Oliver had seven of her game-high 17 points in the first quarter.
"We had a size advantage with Lauren in there," East Forest coach Kerry Wolbert said. "He's a box-and-1 coach, he played Erica with a box-and-1 the first half, then Lauren got all the points. In the second half, he played Lauren with a box-and-1 the second half. I told her to just go down low and that middle would be wide open and it was. We just missed a ton of easy shots. We can't do that Thursday."
Long and Watts each hit a pair of field goals in the early portion of the second quarter as East Forest led 17-14. A pair of free throws from the Lady Bears then made the margin 19-14.
Johnsonburg finishes the season with a 13-10 record.
"Hats off to the season, we're 13-10. I told the girls in the locker room I consider it a successful season," Zilkofski said. "We beat St. Marys twice this year, we beat Kane once. We have room to improve next year, we have a good group coming back. Don't hang your heads, you had a great year. You just had to bow out early."
East Forest moves on to play at No. 1 seed Keystone (22-1) at 7 p.m. Thursday night.