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Young Cats 1 game short

Utilizing an influx of talented freshmen, paired with returning players, the young Lady Cats nearly pulled off the program’s first sectional title since 2009.
The roadblock? Upset artist known as the Salem Lady Lions.
Meeting in the Class 3A Scottsburg Sectional title game Saturday night, Salem continued its run of great play at the right time of year. The Lady Lions eventually avenged regular-season losses to Scottsburg, Charlestown and North Harrison to claim the hardware.
On Saturday night, North Harrison had a quick start, but when the Lady Cats fell behind to the Lady Lions, the rally efforts that brought them to the final never happened. Salem, executing a tough-to-crack 2-3 zone and steady shooting down the stretch at the charity stripe, defeated North Harrison 43-39.
‘I’m excited about the future of this team,’ North Harrison coach Missy Voyles said. ‘We have great basketball players coming back. We’re going to do really great things. I want this to stick in their craw between now and next November. I want them to go out every day and become a little better every day.’
There was plenty of youth spread across the floor in Lady Cats’ blue and white. At one point, four freshmen were on the floor. Age didn’t seem to matter as North Harrison fought to the end.
North Harrison had won the regular-season meeting between the Mid-Southern Conference schools (47-39) a week before Christmas. The way the Lady Lions performed on the season’s biggest stage wasn’t a shock to Voyles.
‘Not really a surprise,’ she said. ‘If you look at their record throughout the year, they may not have won every game, but they’ve played them close. They haven’t lost by a lot. They’ve had a lot of close ones. They beat Silver Creek by 10 not too long ago.’
It was the same Silver Creek team North Harrison held off in the final seconds on Friday night to reach the final.
Entering the final quarter down 27-21, North Harrison seemed to finally make way against the Salem zone. Freshman Cali Nolot flashed the post, caught a pass from classmate Hallie Hinton and sank a free-throw line jumper.
Hinton joined the scoring, driving baseline to draw contact from Salem’s Alex Davidson for two points. Unable to convert the 3-point play, North Harrison was able to cut Salem’s lead to 27-25.
Davidson, the Lady Lions’ senior leader, worked on the offensive end to extend the lead again. She scored after her own miss and then drove for a bucket. With 4:45 to play, Salem’s lead grew to 32-25.
Not out yet, Nolot went to work again. She added more jumpers, three of them. Two came after Jourdan McAfee and Jessicka Chiquito corralled offensive boards.
Yet, each time Nolot scored, Salem countered with makes at the foul line. As a team, Salem went 12 of 14 in the last eight minutes. North Harrison didn’t have its best night at the line, going two of 8.
Following a Taylor Rennirt basket, North Harrison trailed by six with 1:10 left. Nolot, coming up with a steal, saw the return possession result in Stevi Burns nailing a long ball. The make had the Lady Cats within a possession, 39-36, with 48 ticks remaining.
Free throws and the dribbling of Davidson, who eluded the Lady Cats swarming to trap the lanky forward, sent Salem to the Jasper Regional. Davidson, along with Amber Kilburn, made two freebies each in the last 23 seconds.
‘We spent the whole first half trying to get them to do what Cali did in the fourth,’ Voyles said. ‘We wanted to get the ball in the high post. You can push and push and push them to do those things but, offensively, they were stagnant and not getting the movement we needed.’
Nolot had a big night. She finished with three treys, leading to a game-best 19-point effort.
In the opening half, North Harrison scored the first five points. Chiquito nailed a long ball off an inbound play, and then McAfee scored inside via a put-back.
Salem didn’t seem rattled, even after Nolot buried a left-corner bomb to put the Lady Cats up 8-4. She added another after Salem’s Ansley Walton tied the game.
Feeling it from the outside, Nolot nailed a trifecta to launch North Harrison ahead, 14-8.
Then a Lady Cats’ offensive lull occurred. During the next 10 minutes of action, from the second to third quarters, North Harrison managed one field goal. Triples that fell at the start quit finding the bottom of the net. Davidson became a force in the middle for the Lady Lions, blocking a handful of shots.
A 13-3 Salem run after Nolot’s 3-pointer took the Lady Lions to a lead they would never relinquish. Salem got 3-pointers from Laken White then an NBA-range swish by Sadie Soliday.
After leading by four at the half, Salem won a low-scoring third quarter, 6-4. North Harrison broke its field goal spell via a Rennirt trey.
‘I think we got complacent, then all we wanted to do was shoot threes,’ Voyles said. ‘Then, when you aren’t hitting and they go down and score, you have to look to attack … We finally got Cali to get in the area we wanted them. That experience of knowing how to handle the adversity is huge and knowing when to take that outside shot. We would not attack the rim.’
Salem, moving to a 12-13 record, proved strong enough to grind out another post-season knockout as the game wound down. It had been nearly a month since Salem had won a game, but the Lady Lions ended that skid by knocking off host Scottsburg in the first round last Tuesday. They followed that effort with an overtime shocker, eliminating Charlestown in Friday’s semi-final.
Davidson finished with 13 points and 12 rebounds, while Soliday had 11 points.
Following Nolot’s night, fellow freshman Rennirt scored eight off the bench while Chiquito had four points.
With such a young team, Voyles said she hopes the loss so close to a sectional title sticks in the offseason.
‘I hope it hurts and I hope they want to go home and say, ‘We lost because we can’t shoot the basketball very well.’ We need to really work on making that better between now and next year,’ she said.
To go with freshmen Emma Nokes, Chiquito, Hinton, Nolot and Rennirt seeing action in the championship, sophomore Burns and juniors Carlie Burson and McAfee contributed.
‘Every night it was someone different,’ Voyles said of someone stepping up in the postseason. ‘If we can figure out for everyone to play their A game at the same night, consistently, would be big.’
The Lady Cats 17-10 record was a six-win improvement from a year ago. The squad will graduate a quartet of seniors: Hayley Elliot, Kendra Baumgarten, Kim Chiquito and Savannah Taylor.
‘It’s been a great growing year for them,’ Voyles said of the team. ‘I think our young post players got to develop a lot on JV. I’m expecting great play out of them next year. Emma (Nokes) made great strides and so did Shelby Kondovski. I’m expecting good consistent play all the way around next year.’
Salem 8 13 6 16 ‘ 43
North Harrison 11 6 4 18 ‘ 39
Salem (12-13) ‘ Ale. Davidson 13, Soliday 11, Weaver 8, Walton 4, White 4, Kilburn 3.
North Harrison (17-10) ‘ Nolot 19, Rennirt 8, J. Chiquito 4, Burns 3, McAfee 2, Hinton 2, Burson 1.
3-point goals ‘ Salem 2 (Soliday, White); North Harrison 7 (Nolot 3, Rennirt 2, J. Chiquito, Burns).

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