NORWALK – Instant offense.
That’s what St. Paul senior Ashley Smith provided Saturday afternoon in their 52-48 Firelands Conference victory over Plymouth.
Her performance was key in Steve Hill’s club moving to 3-2 in the conference and 3-4 overall. Plymouth is now 3-2 in the FC and 4-4 overall. The Flyers play at South Central Thursday while Plymouth hosts Mapleton the same night.
Smith, who has been slowed by mono, was called to the rescue after Plymouth’s 1,000-point scorer, Rachelle Benfer, was having a field day in the early going. It was an 11-2 game when Smith entered and Benfer had seven of the 11.
Smith scored just one goal in what remained in the quarter but just her presence sparked a late 6-0 run that got it to a workable 17-8 game at the end of the first quarter.
Smith then went to work on that lead in the second period, scoring five times from the field. She got help from Jessica Harvey, Megan Stein and Audrey Badovick, the latter who has been lightly used but definitely impacted the outcome. The Lady Flyers' 22-point second quarter allowed them to take the lead, 30-28 at the intermission.
The winners then played solid defense in the second half, limiting Plymouth to eight points in the third period and 12 in the final, one that was almost enough for Henry Gehring’s club to pull the game out. Clutch foul shooting on the part of Miranda Allen, another gal battling mono, and Harvey offset the shooting of Megan Bond, Emily Collins and Bre McVey, those three twice getting their team to within two in the final 50 seconds.
It was also the second straight stellar performance by St. Paul’s Kayla Bevier. The slightly-built veteran went inside to retrieve a game-high nine rebounds.
"Talk about a clutch performance, Ashley Smith went in and took the game over," Hill said. "My hope was I could rest her one more game but when we could not answer Benfer, I had to call on her. As In saw it, she led and the rest followed her lead.
"We challenged Kayle Bevier to do more than score for us," Hill said. "What a game she had. Nine boards, six points while doing her share in taking care of the ball at crunch time. And that’s where we took our biggest step, hanging tough on a short lead while making clutch foul shots."
Smith finished with a game-high 18 points. She also had five of her team's 30 rebounds.
Benfer, after a 12-point first quarter, was defensed to just two goals the rest of the way. She raked the board, however, seizing nine of her team's 38. Bond took charge after Benfer was better defensed, scoring 14 of her 17 over the final three quarters. She also had six rebounds.
The Lady Flyers committed 20 turnovers, seven of them coming in the final quarter when Plymouth slapped on full-court pressure. The Lady Red had 17 turnovers.
Steve Windau’s reserve team used a 17-7 scoring advantage in the second period as the catalyst in getting by the Lady Red Jayvees, 38-29. Brooke Theisen led the winners (5-2, 4-1) with 17 while Haley Goth had 10 for Plymouth.
ST.PAUL - Bundschuh 2-0-4, Smith 8-1-18, Harvey 3-2-8, Stein 2-0-4, Spaar 1-0-2, Bevier 2-1-6, Allen 0-2-2, Rospert 1-0-2, Badovick 3-0-6. TOTALS 22-6-52
PLYMOUTH - Benfer 6-3-16, Bond 7-2-17, McVey 3-2-8, Miller 0-1-1, Shirey 1-0-2, Collins 1-1-4. TOTALS - 18-9-48.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
St. Paul 8 22 13 9 – 52
Plymouth 17 11 8 12 – 48