CANONSBURG – In the days leading up to the Canon-McMillan girls basketball team’s EQT Energy Classic opener against Saltsburg Saturday afternoon, junior forward Olivia Lorusso couldn’t stop thinking about the Big Macs’ opponent.
Each time Lorusso’s mind would drift, the Trojans seemed to get a few inches taller, a few steps faster and a little more scary.
“It’s intimidating, especially with a team that you haven’t seen before,” Lorusso said. “You come out thinking that they’re going to be really tough – and they were.”
Just not tough enough. After sputtering early, Canon-McMillan kicked it in gear – five consecutive points from Lorusso sure helped – and cruised to a 55-24 win at Canon-McMillan Middle School.
“The moment we found out that we could score on this team, that they weren’t an all-WNBA team, because that’s what we built them up to be, the moment we started scoring points, I think it set our minds that we could do this,” Lorusso said. “We knew that if we stuck together, we could win this game. And that was a big deal for us.”
Lorusso finished with a game-high 16 points. Sophomore forward Danielle Parker had 15 points, and junior guard Brittany Hutchinson contributed 13 for the Big Macs, who will meet Trinity tonight at 6 for the Bracket B title.
Canon-McMillan pressed a lot early and forced the Trojans into 35 turnovers, including 23 in the first half as the Big Macs build a 29-14 halftime lead. Lisa Prenni had a team-high 10 points for Saltsburg, which will play Wash High today at 10 a.m.
“Being the host school and having a lot of energy – and nervous energy – that kind of translated to our offense,” Canon-McMillan coach Frank Zebrasky said. “Defensively, we played pretty well. We did what we had to do by turning them over and putting ourselves in scoring situations.”
Canon-McMillan won despite losing junior guard Maleia Ruane to a knee injury with 3:59 left in the first quarter and making just 15 of 27 free throws.
While a quick return for Ruane seems fairly unlikely, Zebrasky hopes his team’s free-throw shooting improves against neighborhood rival Trinity.
“We had a chance offensively to pick them apart, and we just didn’t do it,” Zebrasky said. “We got to the foul line – and we shoot a lot of foul shots in practice – but that was not indicative of the foul-shooting capabilities that we have.”
The teams were tied at four after a frustrating first two-and-a-half minutes before Hutchinson knocked down a 3-pointer that sent Canon-McMillan on a 17-2 run to close the quarter.
The Big Macs blew the game open by outscoring the Trojans, 17-3, in the third quarter, with seven of those coming from Lorusso.
“We stuck together as a team,” Lorusso said. “You tend to see teams break apart when times get rough. We stuck together, especially in the beginning when we were a little iffy. We kept our heads in it. That was a big thing.”