basketball1

Gilmour Academy junior guard Madeline Martino (left) finds a pass off the dribble against the defense of Perry junior JaC’ana Anderson during the Lady Lancers’ 49-44 home loss Saturday afternoon in Gates Mills.

Judging by the multitude of scorers in their repertoire, the Gilmour Academy basketball girls look the part to contend for a district title this season.

Returning on the heels of an 11-14 district semifinal campaign, the Lady Lancer cagers have had four different leading scorers through their first four games, and third-year varsity starter Megan Duffy, a senior point guard, wasn’t even one of them.

But when the Gilmour girls collided with defending district champion Perry during a home battle on Saturday afternoon in Gates Mills, they left a few too many assists on the floor during a 49-44 loss against the 5-0 Lady Pirates, third-year head coach Julie Solis said.

“I do think this team passes very well, and I do think they’re unselfish, but what we need to learn how to do is finish a little better, because I think we’re giving up a lot of assists that are right there,” Solis said. “So, I think we could have rightfully had similar to (15 assists) if we could finish, and that’s something that we have to continue to work on.”

According to Perry’s statistician, the Lady Pirates had 15 assists on 20 made field goals for the game, while Gilmour had four assists on 15 made field goals, meaning the Lady Lancers didn’t finish off that extra pass or did a little bit too much creating for themselves at times.

But against a program as solid as Perry’s, which features a returning all-Ohioan in 5-foot-8 senior point guard Madyson Hacking, who dropped 18 points against Gilmour on Saturday, as well as senior sharpshooter Elle Infalvi, opposing teams have to score any way they can against the Lady Pirates.

Gilmour’s main focus on its scouting report was Hacking, who averaged 13.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 2.5 steals per game last season.

“To me, she’s a kid who’s got a lot of dog in her, and I like dogs,” Solis said. “I really like watching her play. She gets after it on defense. She gets after it on offense. She’s very aggressive, and I just like her style a lot. So, we really just focused in on her.

“And then, of course, (Elle) Infalvi, No. 2, their shooter. But they have a bunch of kids. Really, what I like about them the most is just how well they play together. It seems like they all have a common goal in their effort on the floor.”

Other than when Perry went on a 12-2 run to close out the first quarter with a 22-11 upper hand, Gilmour played a competitive, back-and-forth game against the Lady Pirates.

Specifically, the Lady Lancers got motoring behind 5-foot-10 junior Lauryn Stover, one of two returning starters for Gilmour, who finished with a game-high 18 points, including 11 in the first half to keep her team within distance, 35-24, at intermission.

“We made it to five points a couple of times, and, when you can cut leads like that, you have to build on that momentum, and I don’t think we did,” Solis. “I think we came down and had defensive series, two or three in a row, that allowed them to get it back up to 11.

“When you’re making that kind of a run, it’s time to really mentally lock it down on the defensive end, and I don’t think we did that. When we did cut it, I think we allowed them to go back and get five or six at times.”

In addition to returning starters Stover and Duffy, the Gilmour girls are calling upon 5-foot-11 junior forward Cooper Flowers, the Lady Lancers’ tallest player, and 5-foot-8 junior guard Madeline Martino, to help motor the starting unit this campaign.

During Gilmour’s 2-2 start, Martino scored a team-high 13 points in a 57-42 win against Lutheran East, while Flowers dropped a team-high 17 points during a 51-39 loss against Division I perennial power Wadsworth.

“I feel that the two teams we lost to, there’s just some things we need to shore up to kind of get on top of teams like that,” Solis said. “I think they’re both very good programs, very well-coached teams, and their kids play really well together. So, I think we’re still trying to find that niche within ourselves and just continuing to get better.”

Perry, specifically, is a measuring bar for Gilmour.

During the 2018-19 campaign, Gilmour finished district runner-up to Perry, 47-44.

And last year, Gilmour defeated Perry, 55-51, in the regular season, before Perry eliminated the Lady Lancers, 46-39, in the district semis, as the Lady Pirates went on to defend their throne with a 20-6 campaign.

“The way this year is, I think my girls are just extremely motivated to play, in general,” Solis said. “I’m kind of working on that rivalry piece, because it’s changed for me too.”

While there’s no doubt Perry should be considered Gilmour’s rival, considering the close battles and history of their past two playoff meetings, it’s nothing like what Solis experienced when she was the head coach at Twinsburg, where her state-champion Lady Tigers more often than not battled Solon twice in the regular season for conference bragging rights and then a third time in the postseason.

Other key returners for the Gilmour girls are 5-foot-8 junior guard Angelina Lonardo, who scored a team-high 15 points in the Lady Lancers’ season-opening victory against Cornerstone Christian Academy, 64-40, on Dec. 5, as well as fellow junior guards Grace Terranova and Gina Lonardo.

Top newcomers getting varsity playing time for Gilmour so far are 5-foot-9 freshman Katie Puletti and 5-foot-3 freshman Nicci Finazzo, both of whom have older sisters who left their marks on the Lady Lancers’ program.

Maddie Puletti, a 2020 graduate now playing at the University of Detroit Mercy, averaged 14 points per game while hitting 53 treys last season.

And Marissa Finazzo, a 2016 graduate who continued her career at Notre Dame College, was an all-state honorable-mention point guard for the Lady Lancers, who had a state final-four run her senior season.

“Our entire freshman class, all of them, they want to learn, they ask a lot of questions, they’re basketball kids that just want to get better every day,” Solis said. “And I really, really am happy with all of them at this point, but those two are going to see the majority of the minutes this year.”

The younger Puletti is already making her mark on offense with nine points against Cornerstone Christian, 10 points against Lutheran East and eight points against Perry.

Up next, Gilmour is scheduled to host Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin at 1 p.m. Saturday.

“The main thing I’m telling the kids all the time is, ‘You can control your turnovers,’” Solis said. “We have to learn how to slow the game down at times. We’ve turned the ball over way too much. So, we have to stop being so careless with the ball and focus on that.

“Then, our offensive execution definitely needs some work. And, like I said, that whole idea of playing together and consistently having a common goal is definitely going to be our focus.”

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