Dodge ball
Tornado girls rally to avoid season-opening loss


By John Enrietto
Eagle Sports Editor


BUTLER TWP Butler turned the ball over early. Ambridge gave the game away late.
The Golden Tornado survived 16 first-half turnovers and rallied from a five-point deficit in the final three minutes to notch a 62-60 girls basketball win over Ambridge in the first round of the Butler Tip-Off Tournament Friday night.
Butler will face Mercyhurst Prep a 45-34 winner over Gateway in the tournament title game at about 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
"Looks like I picked the wrong team to play again,"Butler coach Dorothea Epps said of the tournament's first-round matchups. "Our girls played hard, but their girls were taking it to us."
The Bridgers hung in until the end despite using just six players. Ambridge dressed only eight girls for the varsity game, as one player is on a band trip and another is sidelined with a knee injury.
Its top six players were there, however, and proved plenty to handle.
"We pressed them and worked them as best we could,"Epps said. "They just kept coming."
Ambridge had a 35-30 lead at halftime, despite falling behind 10-2 before the game was two minutes old. The lead changed hands eight times in the third quarter, which ended with the game tied at 47.
Butler played without point guard Lyndsy Day, who is sidelined at least a week with a hyperextended knee, and played freshman Olivia Bresnahan at the point.
"Olivia played very well for a freshman facing that kind of defensive pressure in her first game,"Epps said. "Our problem in the first half was we were trying to force the issue too much."
The Tornado corrected that problem, turning the ball over only five times in the second half. But they had no answer for junior guard Kiki Brown, who scored a game-high 26 points before fouling out with 2:40 remaining.
Brown's last points were on a layup, capping a fast break that gave the Bridgers a 59-54 lead with 2:47 left.

 

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Butler's Rachel Barry charges past an Ambridge player Friday in the first round of the Butler Tip-Off Tournament. The Tornado won 62-60.
RICK KROSEL/SPECIAL TO THE EAGLE

"Once she fouled out, I figured we were in trouble,"Ambridge coach Kim Tirik said. "She's our go-to player on offense. She has a heart of gold and isn't afraid to drive to the basket and make it happen."
Butler scored the next seven points to assume the lead it never lost. Amy Achesinski sank two free throws and Rachel Barry added one. When Barry missed her second free toss, Liz Schultz stuck back the offensive rebound to tie the game with 1:58 left.
Two more Achesinski free throws capped the run before Kara Hochevar canned a free throw of her own to pull Ambridge within 61-60 with
1:20 to play.
The Tornado ran down the clock until Bresnahan was fouled with 32 seconds left. She sank one of two free throws. Achesinski blocked Katie Frioni's shot in the lane just before the buzzer as
Butler held on.
"That wasn't the shot we wanted," Tirik said. "Our tallest girl is 5-foot-8. With four seniors on the floor, we should have been able to get a better look than that."
"We want Amy to block and change more shots this year,"Epps said. "She came up big on that one."
Achesinski led
Butler with 21 points and seven rebounds. Barry added 15 points and Schultz had six boards.
Hochevar had 11 points and seven rebounds for Ambridge, a Class AAAteam which returns all of its players from last year's 13-11 season.
AMBRIDGE 60
Lexi Fontana 0-0 0-0 0, Kiki Brown 10-20 4-4 26, Kara Hochevar 3-7 4-6 11, Kandace Smith 5-7 0-0 11, Katie Frioni 0-2 4-6 4, Cortney Pazzanita 4-4 0-0 8. Totals: 22-40 13-17 60
BUTLER 62
Mackenzie Greenert 0-0 0-0 0, Rachel Barry 4-6 7-10 15, Karissa King 1-3 2-2 5, Olivia Bresnahan 3-6 1-5 7, Liz Schultz 2-5 1-2 5, Rebecca Smith 0-1 0-0 0, Amy Achesinski 7-11 7-8 21, Maria Baroffio 3-7 2-2 9, Erica Miller 0-0 0-1 0. Totals: 20-39 20-28 62
Ambridge 16 19 12 1360
Butler 20 10 17 1562
3-point goals:
Brown 2, Hochevar; King, Baroffio
JV: Butler, 64-8 (B: Kayla Gilliland 15, Becky Smith 12, Mackenzie Greenert 11, Karissa King 11