Give Savanah Laurenty a lot of credit — the young lady certainly knows how to entertain.
A little more than a month ago in a 68-30 victory over West Geauga, the Riverside senior scored her 1,000th career point and also broke the school record for rebounds in a career, all in the same game.
On Feb. 7, in a Western Reserve Conference matchup with visiting South, she may have topped herself. She became the Riverside program’s all-time leading scorer on the same night that the Beavers clinched their second consecutive WRC title.
Laurenty, who will play NAIA basketball at the University of Rochester in Michigan next year, needed 27 points to break the record of 1,251 points set in 2004 by Courtney Kolesar. She finished the night with 29 points and 15 rebounds, leading the Beavers to a 52-38 victory that saw the hosts have to overcome a 15-point deficit in the first quarter. Riverside is now 14-6 overall and 8-0 in the WRC, while the Rebels fall to 7-12 and 1-6.
“I’m feeling a lot of excitement, and I’m kind of emotional,” Laurenty said. “This was a great night. It was senior night, then getting to cut the nets down, and breaking another record. It really just means a lot to me. I really cannot ask for more from my senior year.”
South coach Chris Taglieri jokingly said that he is glad that Laurenty is finally a senior, but then he was nothing but complimentary.
“She’s a heck of a player,” he said. “You don’t become the school’s leading scorer if you’re not good, and she’s good. I’m happy for her and it’s well-deserved. I wish her the best of luck.”
Laurenty has played varsity basketball since her freshman year, and she has been a starter for all but the first few games of that ninth-grade season. Riverside coach Brian Fulton is in just his second year of coaching Laurenty, but he knew what he was inheriting when he moved over from being an assistant coach in the Riverside boy’s program.
“You never have to say much to Savanah,” he said. “She’s got a motor in her that I’ve never seen before. She challenges girls every day in practice because she doesn’t relent. She gets after it and that makes us better as a team. She never comes off the floor and she just plays harder and harder. I love that kid and I love the effort from her.”
While the end of the game was filled with smiles and celebrations for Riverside and its rambunctious crowd, the beginning of the game was the exact opposite. It started with the teams trading baskets, but in the final 3 minutes of the opening quarter, South suddenly caught fire, hitting four consecutive 3-pointers in a span of 1:55, with Caitlin Boruszkowski hitting three and Lacie Luketic adding one.
“Great job by Chris,” Fulton said. “He had them ready to roll. They came out and threw a bunch of haymakers at us, and they all landed. We watched them on film and knew that they could shoot. They’ve been down the last couple years, and they’ve been in a lot of close games this year. But they were really ready to play.”
Suddenly, the Rebels were up by 15 at 21-6, and Riverside’s night of celebration appeared to be in jeopardy. Laurenty had her struggles as well in the first quarter, hitting just 2 of 9 shots for four points, as the Beavers appeared to be more concerned about getting Laurenty her points instead of playing their style of basketball.
“That was not the best way to start out,” said Fulton. “We knew there was a lot on the line. The girls knew that we could clinch the conference championship tonight and they knew that Savanah was within range for the all-time record. We definitely tried to force the ball to her a little bit in the beginning.”
As the senior leader of the squad, Laurenty took it upon herself to try to motivate her teammates to play the way they know how to play.
“I was like, ‘Oh, shoot. This is not good,’” she said. “Then I came into the huddle and I was like, ‘We’ve got to pick it up. I mean, c’mon.’ And we did. Once we went to our man-to-man defense and got aggressive, things turned around and came back in our favor.”
The game turned in the second period, as the hosts hit a 13-0 run while holding South scoreless for nearly 5 minutes. The Rebels still led at the half, 31-29, but they were definitely looking over their shoulder.
“In this game, it boils down to one thing,” Taglieri said. “We hit shots in the first half and got a nice little lead there, but Riverside is a really good team. That’s why they’re conference champs and why they have the all-time leading scorer for the school. I give them all the credit in the world. But one thing I will say is that our girls fought hard. You cannot deny that.”
The third quarter, which Taglieri called his team’s Achilles heel, was more of the same. South opened the period with a basket by Sydney Isabella to up the lead to 33-29 just 15 seconds in, but the Rebels wouldn’t score again until 1:07 remained on the clock, a scoring drought that lasted 6:38 and resulted in another 13-0 run by the Beavers.
The key basket in the run was scored by senior McKenna Thomas, whose 3-pointer from the left side off a feed from Laurenty gave Riverside its first lead of the game, 36-33. Just about 2 minutes later, Sarah Fulton added another long 3-pointer also off a pass from Laurenty, making it 40-33. The Rebels could get no closer for the rest of the game.
Laurenty was the lone Riverside player to reach double figures, as Sarah Fulton added six points and Thomas and Rhys Shantery each had five. South was topped by Boruszkowski with 14 points, and Isabella had 12.
Riverside 52, South 38