Greyhounds fall to Falcons 56-28, despite Johnson's 17 points, including five three-pointers

STAFF PHOTO: WADE EVANSON - Gaston's Isabelle Gomez goes up for a shot during the Greyhounds' game against Faith Bible Jan. 27 at the Forest Grove Lutheran School in Cornelius.There's really only one team to beat in the Northwest League. And after being handily beaten by No. 6-ranked Faith Bible more than a month ago, Gaston again fell to the overpowering Falcons 56-28 Saturday, Jan. 27 at Forest Hills Lutheran School in Cornelius.

The Greyhound girls were stymied by Faith and overwhelmed by 6-foot-1 senior twins Sarah and Katie Fajer, who spearheaded a swarming defense that led to a bevy of first-half Gaston turnovers and subsequently more than a handful of easy Falcon points.

The Fajers combined for 24 points, 16 rebounds, eight steals and six blocks, and were aided by a solid performance from freshman point guard Izzy Steerman, who contributed 11 points and four steals in the victory.

Gaston (7-8, 6-5) was led by sophomore Lilly Johnson, who scored 17 points for the Hounds, including five three-pointers, all in the second half.

But this night wasn't so much about what Johnson or Gaston did, but more so what they couldn't against a very challenging Faith Bible squad.

"We try to scout them as much as we can and try and see what maybe works for other teams," said Gaston head coach Travis Martin. "But hats off to them, they're a quality team with quality players."

The Greyhounds — who had won four in a row and five of their last seven entering the night — struggled mightily against the bigger Falcons, frequently succumbing to Faith's pressure defense. The home Falcons got 26 of their 56 points off of Gaston turnovers and nearly all of their 10 first-quarter points from lay-ins in transition. The Greyhounds on the other hand, scored but two points in the opening quarter and just five in the first half, going without a field goal until junior Isabelle Gomez made a three-pointer in the final seconds of the second quarter, to make the score 22-5 at the half.

Like Gaston, Faith struggled offensively as well, getting little production in the half-court.

"Teams have been running a lot of zone against us, so the girls were a little thrown off by the man-to-man," said Faith Bible head coach Eddie Kirkpatrick. "We need to do a better job running the plays. Our girls weren't all on the same page and we need to do a better job with that."

"We're not playing as a team," he continued. "We were a little discombobulated out there in the first half, so it's just frustrating trying to get everyone playing together."

The Falcons took flight in the third, scoring 20 points in the quarter and getting some, albeit limited, production in the half-court en route to a 42-8 lead heading to the game's final stanza. Faith got seven points from Steerman and a couple baskets from senior post Alleggra Poetter.

"Getting Izzy involved and scoring double digits is big for us, and we did a good job of everybody scoring and contributing tonight," said Kirkpatrick. "Obviously the twins can dominate down low in the post, but it was good to see everyone get involved."

The fourth quarter was all about Johnson, who scored the Hounds' only three points in the third before pouring-in 14 in the fourth to at least give Gaston a positive end to an otherwise difficult contest.

"Lilly is a gym rat," said Martin. "A couple games ago she kind of figured out that she can and should take her shot, and we've seen her confidence grow."

Which could be key for a Greyhound team who with three games remaining, is still competing for a league playoff spot.

"We just try and compete, and we've done that well in the last four games," Martin said. "We're getting better and we're finally getting healthy."

In addition to Johnson, Gaston's Charity Hall had six points while grabbing six rebounds.

Gaston is next scheduled to play Jan. 31 at City Christian, before hosting Vernonia Feb. 3 and wrapping-up their regular season at Neah-Kah-Nie Feb. 8.

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