Greenon High School’s Brittany Kozak spent the entire first quarter Saturday playing like a gal whose high-tops were on fire.
With a speedy sense of urgency and contagious intensity to spare, the 5-foot-10 junior forward wasted no time igniting a game-opening, 21-5 run that proved too much for visiting Benjamin Logan to overcome.
“She’s a player who has a real nose for the ball,” said Greenon assistant coach Lonnie Robinson, filling in for an out-of-town Gary Falkenbach. “Brittany scores, gets offensive and defensive rebounds, and guards the other team’s best player. She’s just now starting to realize what she can do.”
Ten of Kozak’s team-high 12 points came in the decisive first quarter, and the Knights needed every one of them to hang on for a wild, 46-42, Central Buckeye Conference, Mad River Division win.
“Our intensity was up. We definitely got after it,” Robinson said of the quick start. “We ran everything the way we wanted to in that first quarter and were playing really good defense. Then we got a little tired, started fouling and couldn’t get out of it.”
Though the Knights never trailed, they watched their big lead shrink with each passing quarter.
Plagued by uncharacteristic fouls and 19 turnovers, their 10-point lead shrank to 42-35 after three periods and Benjamin Logan was sniffing a comeback.
“That first quarter was the difference,” said Raiders coach Donnie Sosby, whose animated sideline instruction nearly cost him a technical during his squad’s feverish, fourth-quarter comeback.
“We’ve had that same problem all year. We’re not coming out ready to play. Our intensity to start the game isn’t where it needs to be.”
Ben Logan crept within striking distance, 40-32, and forced a Greenon time out with 2:20 left in the third after Taylor Quay and Lauren Oglesbee hit back-to-back 3-pointers.
The timely shots made believers of the Raiders, who started the fourth with a 7-2 spurt and closed within 44-42 with 20 seconds remaining.
“We play with more of a sense of urgency when we’re down,” Sosby said, shaking his head. “We need to do that when we get off the bus. It’ll come, though. I couldn’t be more proud of how hard they played – how they fought back.”
Though Greenon standout Lianne Masquelier was held to six points – nearly 10 below her average – her clutch pair of free throws with 7.5 seconds left iced the four-point win.
“I told the girls at the beginning of the fourth quarter that we were going to have to grind it out and we did,” Robinson said. “We were up eight or 10 points, but I knew they’d be coming back.”
“We have rough patches here and there, but we still stay together and play hard,” added 5-8 senior Brooke Robinson. “We all just really want to win. We’ve had some good practices lately and we wanted to come out intense. We knew we had to.”
Greenon, 8-4 and 5-1, held on to at least a share of the CBC Mad River Division lead with the gritty victory, getting 10 points from 5-11 junior Taylor Burson.
“It was a great team win for sure,” said 5-5 senior guard Jenn Miller, who chipped in seven points. “We came out really hyped up compared to what we usually are. We were ready for this game.”
Benjamin Logan (5-8, 2-3) got a game-high 14 points from 5-6 sophomore Taylor Coy.