SULLIVAN TWP. — Black River’s Sarah Kozik spent the better part of Tuesday night dishing one assist after another to her teammates. Then, the point guard came up with the biggest shot of the game to beat Open Door 38-35.
The 5-foot-5 junior struggled from the field, missing her seven first shots, but made her last two, including a 20-foot dagger from the right side with 41.7 seconds remaining to give the Pirates (1-1) the lead for good.
“I was down the first couple quarters, but once I hit that shot, it got me going,” Kozik said. “It kept my offense going and got me to stay grounded in my shot.”
Black River coach Wes Hockman called for a role reversal on the play, having Lydia Wacker (16 points) bring the ball up the court before finding Kozik.
Standing a full two feet behind the arc and without a hand in her face, Kozik hit nothing but net to give Black River a 34-32 lead and snap a nine-game losing streak that dated back to last season.
“I have so much confidence in her,” Wacker said. “I know she can be off some days or off in a game, but if she’s under pressure and needs to make a play, she’ll make a play.”
That showed down the stretch when Kozik (five points, nine assists) found Abbie Graves (five points, eight rebounds) for a bucket to extend the lead to four points nine seconds later.
Ashley Kalman extended the lead to six before a 3-pointer at the buzzer by Emily McClain (15 points, six assists) made things look closer than they were.
“The biggest thing there is there isn’t a kid that wants it more than Sarah,” Hockman said. “We do a summer shooting program and she put more than 20,000 shots up from the end of last season to the start of this season. She plays high-level AAU and just works and works and works on her game.
“She wants to play in college, that’s her dream. We’re completely confident in her. We’re a young team and she’s a kid that has been through those battles. We expect her to make the right decisions.”
Hockman’s decision to come out of a 2-3 zone and go man-to-man proved vital over the last three quarters.
Open Door (1-2) started off hot by going up 13-8 after the first quarter.
When McClain, who assisted or scored on all but one bucket for the Patriots, wasn’t getting it done, Emily Werley (10 points, four rebounds) and Emerson Dobbins (four points, 15 rebounds) were shredding the Pirates.
Black River went back to man-to-man and Open Door couldn’t keep up.
“We kind of played out of our game down the stretch,” Patriots coach Vaughn Jones said. “We stopped running our gameplan and started pressing the ball. The passes weren’t strong. Instead of being patient, we got a little anxious. They did step up and capitalize on our mistakes.”
That was evident in the final three quarters as the Pirates’ pressure forced 28 turnovers — Open Door had 32 overall.
During that stretch, Open Door shot 8-for-36 (.222). The Patriots went a stretch of 5:22 without scoring a basket and suffered through another 4:57 drought without a point.
That allowed Black River to chip away at the deficit and take a 19-18 lead at intermission and 25-24 advantage after three quarters.
“Defense was really big,” Wacker said. “We just had to keep our hands off and keep a clean game. It helped us tremendously because we knew we were getting in their heads. They were getting more frustrated. We could do more stuff on defense.”
Black River 38, Open Door 35
OPEN DOOR (35): Hannah DeMange 0-0-0, Alissa Faber 1-2-4, Emerson Dobbins 2-0-4, Emily Werley 3-3-10, Emily McClain 7-0-15, Kayla Fox 0-0-0, Alyssa Scheneman 1-0-2, Jasmine Brooks 0-0-0. Totals 14-5-35.
Black River (38): Kennedy Petruzzi 1-0-2, Abbie Graves 2-1-5, Grace Channel 1-1-3, Lydia Wacker 6-0-16, Sarah Kozik 2-0-5, Ashley Kalman 2-3-7, Kaylynn Maurer 0-0-0, Taylor Hendershot 0-0-0, Faith Simons 0-0-0. Totals 14-5-38.
Open Door 13 5 6 11 — 35
Black River 8 11 6 13 — 38
Three-point goals: Werley, McClain, Wacker 4, Kozik. Rebounds: Open Door 35 (Dobbins 15), Black River 35 (Graves 8). Assists: Open Door 8 (McClain 6), Black River 11 (Kozik 9). Total fouls: Open Door 16, Black River 14.