BY KEVIN PRISE firstname.lastname@example.org
Medina Journal-Register — AKRON — The Lady Purple Eagles have struggled to finish games strong early this season, highlighted by a seven-point loss to Caledonia-Mumford in last week’s Wheatland-Chili Tournament, when Albion squandered a 10-point lead with eight minutes remaining.
In Friday evening’s Niagara-Orleans League girls basketball contest at Akron, coach Lucian Price’s Albion squad proved that it has learned a lesson or two from its previous fourth-quarter troubles. Point guard Justice Nauden paced Albion with 18 points, as the Lady Purple Eagles took a big lead early and held on for a relatively comfortable 50-39 victory over the Lady Tigers.
With the win, Albion improves to 2-1 in league play, 3-4 overall. Akron falls to 1-2 in the league.
“Losing a big lead to Caledonia-Mumford was tough, so it was good to see us keep our composure down the stretch and fight back,” Price said. “Justice did a good job directing things offensively, and we played a good defensive game.”
After missing nearly a month of play due to injury, Albion’s Kelsee Soule returned to the lineup Friday and proved effective, notably finding Chanyce Powell inside on a nifty dribble-and-pass move that led to an easy layup, making the score 33-22 Albion midway through the third quarter.
Soule also had a nice assist on a long two-point jumper by Nauden that made it 43-33 Albion after three quarters, putting the Lady Tigers into a sizable hole from which they couldn’t recover.
Soule finished with nine points, and although Price admitted that the recovery process cannot be judged in one game, the coach was pleased with what he saw from his star sophomore.
“Kelsee was out for a month, so it will definitely be a process,” Price said. “We’re going to build chemistry with her as we go along, but she was definitely a spark coming back.”
Albion jumped out to a 25-9 lead early in the second quarter, before Akron closed the half on an 8-2 run, as the Lady Purple Eagles struggled to find a rhythm offensively late in the half.
Price kept his troops optimistic, though, and the Albion squad weathered a flurry of three-pointers from Akron’s Tobie Abrams in the third quarter. Abrams nailed three three-pointers in a three-minute stretch as the Lady Tiger faithful started to go ballistic from the bleachers. With three minutes remaining in the third, Akron trailed by just five points, 35-30.
But just as quickly as she heated up, Abrams cooled down, and the Lady Tigers went through an offensive slump in the game’s final minutes. After Akron’s Maggie Koworlik made a layup to cut the lead to 46-39 with two minutes remaining, Nauden drained a pair of free throws to seal the deal.
Powell finished with 16 points for the Lady Purple Eagles, while Koworlik led Akron with 13 points. Abrams added 12 — all on three-pointers.
Albion returns to action Tuesday evening, traveling to Medina for a 6:30 p.m. rivalry contest.