Free-throw shooting leads Woodridge girls hoops to two wins

by Steve Batko | Correspondent Published:

Abbe Esterak certainly knows how to shoot those free throws.

The 5-foot-5 sophomore point guard had a monster week for the Woodridge girls basketball team.

Esterak made 13 free throws in two straight games and in a career-high 27-point outburst in the big 77-43 league win at Waterloo on Feb. 29, set the school single-season record.

Breaking the record of 111 by another standout Woodridge guard -- Lisa Flasco (1989-90).

Esterak now has 129 made free throws as of press time.

By the way, Esterak also had the game-winning free throws with 3.3 seconds left to beat Akron North 61-60 on Feb. 1 at home. The win put Woodridge at 7-11 overall.

North, which was only 13-of-28 at the stripe, hit a pair of tosses with 8.8 ticks left to lead by one.

"We had a play written up in our time out to get Abbe the ball quickly, it worked, " said Bulldog coach Chris Esterak of the foul. "Having just set the free throw record the game before, Abbe calmly knocked both down."

Woodridge finished by playing strong full court defense as North still had a chance to win, but the Vikings never got a shot off. The Vikings had a big 15-9 first quarter and were led by Tia Balknight, who scored 17 points.

Woodridge sophomore forward Shayla Williams was superb with a double-double of 18 points and 10 rebounds. Sophomore guard Aamirah Howard had eight points and three steals.

Senior post Sarah Kariotis added six points and eight boards while sophomore Reagan Lovelace had three points, and junior Sabrina Fisher had two.

These wins will only fuel the Lady Bulldogs to gain experience for the upcoming Nordonia Division II sectional-district tournament.

The recent drawing gave Woodridge the fifth overall seed behind Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary, Richfield Revere, Chagrin Falls, and Shaker Heights Laurel Academy. Woodridge was seeded in front of rebuilding three-time state champion Shaker Heights Hathaway Brown.

"We did well at the seeding," said Esterak. "We ended up with the fifth seed out of 13 teams."

Woodridge will host a first round sectional game on Feb. 15 against Cleveland Central Catholic at 2 p.m.

Central Catholic, the seventh seed, played Woodridge earlier in the year and lost 50-45. With a win, the Bulldogs would host a second round game on Feb. 20 at 7 p.m. against eighth-seeded Cleveland Heights Beaumont.

The win over Waterloo raised the Bulldogs' record in the Portage Trail Conference County Division to 3-7 as the locals had 21 steals.

"We had a great game against Waterloo," said the coach. "The team played a great game both offensively and defensively."

Esterak scored a the career high 27 points in going 13-of-16 at the stripe, set the new free throw mark. She dished out five assists and had four steals.

Howard was sensational as she had 16 points, six thefts, six rebounds, and five feeds.

"Aamirah Howard had another standout game for us and so did Reagan Lovelace," said the mentor.

Despite some foul trouble, Williams had a strong floor game with 14 points, seven rebounds, six steals, and three assists.

Lovelace had her finest varsity game possibly as she had eight points and collected eight boards.

"Reagan was strong inside and it was her best game of the year as she dominated the paint offensively and defensively," said Esterak, who also saw sophomore forward-guard Hanna Gilles have a strong 2-point, 4-rebound outing.

"Hanna brought some great energy off the bench and it was a great team effort."

Kariotis added four points and grabbed eight rebounds. Junior Da'zha Collins had three points, Fisher two, and sophomore Nadja Rashid added a free throw.

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