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West Geauga senior guard Nicola Ehrbar tries to get past an Indians’ defender in The Wolvarena last week.

Most high school basketball teams have had to play catch-up during the 2020-21 season after the start of the season wad delayed due to the ongoing pandemic. It has been challenging for any team to gain momentum as only a few teams were fortunate enough to play almost a full season. The West Geauga Wolverines girls basketball team is actually further behind.

The team saw its season get delayed further when the West Geauga school district didn’t deem it safe for the Wolverines to return to the court when most teams in the area were beginning game action. Once the season did start the Wolverines faced constant scheduling issues as teams cancelled on them at the last minute leaving very little time to find replacements. The team will finish out the year playing only ten games.

The Wolverines have done the best they can to find as many opponents as possible in a shortened season but that has not been the only obstacle. West Geauga hasn’t fielded their usual starting five all season. The starters have all been hobbled by various injuries making it tough for the team to truly string together any consistency.

Head coach Greg Dugger was hopeful the team was turning a corner after a statement victory on Feb. 4 against Cornerstone Christian Academy. West Geauga took a step back by making too many mental mistakes to drop a tightly contested game against Beaumont on Feb. 10. The Wolverines then came undone again down the stretch for their second straight loss in a 56-50 defeat against the Copley Indians on Feb. 11 in Geauga County.

“In this game we were coming off of what was a tough loss to Beaumont,” said senior guard Athena Hocevar, “We just really wanted to come together today and avenge that loss but sadly we did not get the job done but that’s okay because we’re going to go and practice hard tomorrow.”

Both teams played physical defense to start the game but Wolverines’ senior guard Lauren Munko got the Wolverines rolling by scoring the first six points for her team in the first quarter but the Indians rallied and West Geauga had only a one-point at the end of the first. Copley’s offense heated up by going on a 17-12 run to take a four-point lead midway through the second quarter. Hocevar and sophomore guard Alexa Hocevar ignited West Geauga’s offense to close the quarter on a 9-0 run and lead 35-30 at the break.

West Geauga’s offense went off the rails in the second half as the team went ice-cold from the floor. The ball began to stick as the Wolverines settled for some bad shots while Copley put on a clinic in ball movement by constantly making the extra pass to find the open player and opened the third quarter on a 15-0 run. The Indians finished with a total of 15 assists on 21 field goals.

The Wolverines responded with a 7-0 run to trail by just three points entering the fourth quarter. The offense continued to sputter and despite closing the gap to just four points West Geauga couldn’t get over the hump and made just three field goals and committed six turnovers.

“We got a little in our own heads again. We’re just not gelling right now. We’re trying to find the right mix of who should be playing where,” said coach Dugger.

It just seems like a dark cloud has been hanging over West Geauga’s head during a season hindered by the pandemic. The team opened the season without senior guard Nicky Ehrbar and then lost Alexa Hocevar to an ankle injury for several games. Both Wolverines are just getting back on the court now but the team was dealt another blow when it lost its leading scorer junior guard Grace Wolfe to a high ankle sprain for the rest of the season. The Wolverines aren’t making excuses and are focused on moving forward with the sectional tournament drawing near.

“We have to learn each other’s playing style. We have to pick each other up,” said Alexa Hocevar.

Alexa Hocevar led West Geauga with 14 points, four rebounds, two assists and two rejections while her sister Athena scored 12 points, grabbing 14 rebounds and dishing out two assists. The Indians were led by sophomore center Ashley Kerekes who tallied 17 points, hauled in seven rebounds and blocked one shot and sophomore guard Shelby Emich followed up with 12 points, two rebounds and three assists.

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