NH marches its way to regional supremacy
North Harrison’s Lady Cats are going to semi-state, and they are bringing two not-so-well-kept-secret weapons with them. Secret weapon No. 1, Liz Geltmaker, was not included in Hoosier Basketball Magazine’s Top 100 senior girls. Their mistake.
No one was overlooking Geltmaker Saturday as she led all scorers in both of North’s Class 3A Jasper Regional victories with 18 points against Edgewood (18-6) and 23 in the championship against Evansville Memorial (20-5).
She racked up 14 in the first half of each game.
Secret weapon No. 2:
North Harrison’s fans have had an overwhelming presence in the Lady Cats’ past three games, all in the tournament. They’ve been louder, more creative, and much more numerous than the “opposition.” One frustrated Tigers fan had to sit behind the Lady Cats’ bench to make sure his profane lamentations were audible.
He was last seen having a conversation with law enforcement at halftime.
Emerging from the locker room to be greeted by a huge partisan crowd in Jasper took the edge off for Lady Cat sophomore Tara Miller.
After the No. 3-ranked Lady Cats beat Evansville Memorial 62-46 to win North Harrison’s first girls’ varsity regional ever and extend their luminous record to 25-0, Miller said the crowd “pumps us up so much. And then it makes (the opponent) intimidated. I love it ’cause I just keep laughing.”
Starting a game with a huge run is another good way to take the edge off.
Coach Missy Voyles asked her team to put the Tigers on the ropes in the first quarter and keep them there. That’s exactly what the Lady Cats did.
The Tigers controlled the tip and senior Anne Endress began her busy evening with an inside score, giving Evansville Memorial their only lead of the game.
In answer, a secret weapon to no one, senior Kim McMillin hit from downtown. Lindsay Shroyer tacked on a deuce, then McMillin. Rachel Cannon contributed an old-fashioned three, followed by a contemporary trey by Geltmaker.
The Tigers were out-rebounding the Lady Cats but failing to capitalize.
McMillin, who is listed in Hoosier Basketball Magazine’s Top 100, continued the run with another deuce. Her best friend, Geltmaker, stole the ball, broke away and bagged two free throws after the Tigers prevented the easy one.
Evansville’s prodigy FahKara Malone, a freshman, halted the 17-point run with a trey, and Endress closed out the quarter with two. North led 17-7.
Evansville opened the scoring in the second with a deuce by Jessica Hass. Erin Meyer added another as the Tigers continued to dominate the boards both offensively and defensively.
Playing her second game of the day and fighting bronchitis, McMillin, North’s leading scorer through the regular season, was sometimes slow in transition and looked tired. Nonetheless, she gutted it out on the way to her second 17-point performance of the day.
Andrea Fitcher dropped in a three to reduce North’s advantage to 22-16 with 3:10 left in the half, but North Harrison’s offense erupted.
Cannon scored two inside and Geltmaker added another three. The Tigers put in two more and Geltmaker came back with her second three in 20 seconds, her third of the game, and laid in a score off the steal before the Tigers could respond.
At intermission, the Lady Cats’ offense was rolling and North led 36-23.
When rebounders need motivating at the midway point, Coach Voyles said, “I get into a couple of players and let them know that their sole focus out there should be to block out and rebound.”
After a halftime overhaul reminiscent of the sectional final against Madison, the Lady Cats held their own on the glass in the second half. Cannon finished the game with 12 boards and Shroyer 10.
Both teams took it inside in the third. North Harrison scored 10 in deep and Evansville put in 12, led by six from Malone on her way to 14 to lead the Tigers. At the end of the quarter, North led 46-35.
Discouraged by Evansville’s penetration, in the huddle Geltmaker pleaded with her teammates to “Remember last year,” when the Lady Cats lost in overtime to eventual state runner-up Gibson Southern in the first game of the regional.
“We had a hard loss, and I thought it really affected us. We knew that coming into this year we didn’t want it to end like it did last year. We really want that ring,” Geltmaker said later.
In the final frame, Evansville scored twice from behind the arc before North’s first field goal, but the Lady Cats more than accounted for the Tigers’ scoring during the drought, putting away seven of eight free throws and shooting 12 for 16 from the line for the quarter.
When the buzzer sounded the first-ever regional title for the Lady Cats, North Harrison had dispatched Memorial 62-46.
“Twenty-five-and-O. Two to go,” McMillin said after the game.
Despite her illness, McMillin didn’t see much of the bench against the Tigers.
At this level, “You rest somebody and you lose. Well, then they’ve got six months to rest,” Voyles said.
Geltmaker’s smile just got wider after the game.
It’s not uncommon to see her lips curl while pressuring a guard in the backcourt.
“I don’t know if I’m smiling, but Missy said, ‘Whatever you do, make sure you have fun.’ Playing defense for most people isn’t fun, but … I like putting pressure on their guards,” Geltmaker said.
North shot 19 of 44 from the field and hit 20 of 25 frees. Memorial, which out-rebounded the Lady Cats, 44-36, was held to 19 of 66 (28 percent) from the floor and hit just four of 11 free throws.
The Class 3A Southport Semi-state will be Saturday at 1 p.m. The winner between North Harrison and No. 2 Beech Grove will compete in the state final on March 8 at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
N.H. 60, Edgewood 44
In a game wrought with traveling violations, North Harrison didn’t need to take the ball very far.
The Lady Cats bagged nine threes against Edgewood’s Mustangs at the 3A Jasper Regional, as many as the blue and white had attempted in the sectional final against Madison. Marksmanship coupled with a stifling defensive performance by North led to a 60-44 victory and the Lady Cats’ 24th win in a historic season that has been flawless thus far.
Edgewood failed to capitalize after grabbing the opening tip, and the Lady Cats, who hit just once from behind the arc against Madison, got things started in Jasper with a McMillin trey. The Mustangs’ Amanda Kot and Sarah Thompson quelled hopes for an early run, logging a deuce apiece.
The game took a turn for the ugly as the officials began calling traveling violations so tight, the momentum started to turn purple.
In the final three minutes of the first, the action was most likely to be found behind the arc.
Edgewood’s Tara Langvardt hit from downtown at 3:07. North seniors Geltmaker and McMillin dropped bombs. Thompson took it inside for two on her way to scoring 18, but North wasn’t ready to deliver a proportional response.
Geltmaker launched another from outside for three. Edgewood’s Courtney DeSmith fired back closing the quarter with a trey and leaving the Mustangs down only 17-15.
Geltmaker, who would finish with 18, opened the second frame with her third of four bombs for the game and Edgewood was out of answers. The calls were still tight and, with five more traveling violations before the half, the Mustangs’ momentum was put out to pasture.
Edgewood scored only twice in the second quarter for four points while North logged 16 to pull away 33-19 at the half.
North Harrison was called for steps four times in the third quarter, but still had the range.
McMillin dropped one from long range and went inside for two, as did Rachel Cannon, while the Mustangs continued to be saddled by turnovers.
North was up 40-19 when Edgewood found life inside the paint led by the 5′ 10″ Thompson and 6′ Jessica Porter who combined for 10 points in three minutes.
North had passed the hot hand to Tara Miller and she hit twice from Three-Point Land, with a drive for two in between, to log all of North’s scoring in the second half of the third frame. The Lady Cats began the fourth quarter with a 48-33 lead.
Edgewood’s three field goals came from behind the arc in the final quarter. The Lady Cats matched those points from the foul line and poured in a pair of field goals besides to close out the game 60-44.
While some care was taken to rest North’s starting five, Miller and Geltmaker still logged their usual minutes.
“I wanted to rest Tara a little more, but I just didn’t get the opportunity, and I don’t worry about Liz – she’s like the Energizer Bunny. We could play four games today, and I’m not sure it would wear her out,” Voyles said.
The Lady Cats ripped the nets on 20 of 41 from the floor and were 9-18 on triples, including 6 of 11 in the second half. The Mustangs shot 17 of 37 on field goals, 5-10 beyond the arc, but couldn’t buck their poor effort handling the ball: Edgewood had 29 turnovers to North’s 19.