Mitchell can’t hang with NH press
The message was simple at halftime: Don’t change the defensive strategy; just turn the intensity up.
North Harrison responded to the request, opening the third quarter on a 14-0 run to erase a four-point halftime deficit. The Lady Cats used the intense defensive pressure to force 15 Mitchell turnovers in the third quarter.
Despite growing the lead to 12 points in the second half, North Harrison needed a key field goal from Hillary Fonda and free throws from Kendra Lambert to secure a 52-49 win over visiting Mitchell on Dec. 28.
The third-quarter outburst provided the lift North Harrison needed. After a lackluster first half, the Lady Cats needed a fast start after the break. Pressure defense through a full-court press and half-court trap provided a different tempo. The Lady Cats ran the same defense in the first half, but the second-half energy was different.
Turnover after turnover went North Harrison’s way. On an inbounds under the bucket, Emily Giles hit a short shot to give North Harrison a 23-21 lead. Another Lady Jacket miscue followed, leading to Hayley Renneker scoring on a set inbounds play. The Lady Cat lead eventually ballooned to 40-28 at the end of the third quarter when Amanda Hartley hit a field goal.
‘We talked at half about sticking to our defense but just pressuring the ball more,’ North Harrison coach Hal Pearson said. ‘We wanted to force traps and, when we get the ball, go with it. At halftime, we said to go out and play harder and accelerate the game. Then, we got back into passing lanes, which wasn’t what we were doing in the first half.’
Mitchell made the game interesting in the final quarter by toeing the foul line several times. Free throws made up a 9-3 run to trim North Harrison’s lead to 43-37.
‘We had to change up our defense and back off a bit because of foul trouble,’ Pearson said. Three of the Lady Cat starters were strapped with four fouls late.
Then, inside the final 2:15, Mitchell hit four 3-pointers. Mia Burton hit her first of two with 1:08 to play, knotting the game at 46. North Harrison responded with a field goal from Lambert, but the lead didn’t last. Burton fired back with another trey.
‘The last person we wanted shooting was Burton because we knew coming in she could shoot,’ Pearson said. ‘We just lost her a few times.’
North Harrison called a time out with 29 seconds left, drawing up a play to get Lambert a shot. Her attempt from the left wing was off, but Fonda was on the backside to corral the rebound. Fonda wasted no time banking in the put-back.
‘Coach (Alan) Reed in practice has been working with the girls on looking for rebounds on the opposite side,’ Pearson said. ‘Lambert got the shot we wanted, but the pass was a little slow to her. If the pass was quicker, she would’ve had a better look. Hillary went backside for the rebound and saved us.’
Mitchell was whistled for a loose-ball foul on the ensuing possession. Lambert hit a pair of free throws in the final seconds, sealing the game.
Lambert led North Harrison with 11 points, followed by Crawford with nine. Fonda and Hartley had eight each, while Emily Giles collected a team-best seven rebounds.
Burton led Mitchell with 13 points. The Lady Jackets had 33 turnovers, 24 coming in the second half.
The win snapped a two-game slide for the Lady Cats, improving their record to 4-7. They will return to action tomorrow (Thursday) when they visit Lanesville for a 7:30 p.m. tip.