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Once Lady Cats wake, top Greensburg

Once Lady Cats wake, top Greensburg
Once Lady Cats wake, top Greensburg
North Harrison senior Jourdan McAfee, center, and her teammates celebrate after winning over Greensburg to put themselves into the Class 3A Charlestown Regional championship game. Photos by Wade Bell

The North Harrison Lady Cats seemed loose and ready to go Saturday in their semi-final game of the Class 3A Charlestown Regional against Greensburg. The players, and even coach Missy Voyles, were all wearing smiles before the 10 a.m. contest as they took the floor before the game.
But something happened during the last 60 seconds before the ball went up in the air for the tip-off. The goal developed a case of covered-lid syndrome, with shots bouncing off in all directions, and passes began flying in all directions other than where they were supposed to go. In the end, however, the Lady Cats uncapped the hoop, got the ball moving in the right direction and rallied ahead of Greensburg to advance into the championship game that night.
‘We used to be the worst morning basketball team,’ Voyles said after her team survived by a slim 46-42 margin. ‘We played a decent morning game one time. We keep saying, ‘Well, we’re not great morning people. Well, I said, if we’re going to win a regional, we’re going to have to be great morning people at some point. They still prove that they’re not great morning people, but they did pull it out.’
The first quarter was a nightmare for the Lady Cats, as the ball could find no way to get through the hoop. North Harrison missed its first seven shots from the field and didn’t get its first points until the 1:40 mark, when Lilly Hatton hit a short jumper. Meanwhile, the Lady Pirates were pouring in some heavy artillery, with Bailey Meyer and Kyra Whitaker firing in three-pointers as Greensburg took an 11-2 lead by the end of the first quarter.
‘We concentrated all week of taking away their post presence,’ Greensburg coach Jason Simpson said. ‘We knew that was going to be their strength, and I don’t think it was just the first quarter. I think we did a pretty solid job of that all day. That was our focus all week, was making sure that, even though we were going to stay man-to-man, we were going to pack it back in on the help side and pressure the ball out top.’
Both teams went dry through the first three minutes of the second period then Carlie Burson canned a pair from the charity stripe. Whitaker countered with a three, but Burson added two more to close the gap to eight. Both teams followed with turnovers, but things got really hot as the fire alarms began to go off, causing a 10-minute delay in the game.
‘I told the referees that I wished that had gone off when we were burning the nets up,’ Simpson said. ‘Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.’
Whitaker drilled an immediate three after the game resumed. North Harrison, however, found some traction and rallied with a 9-0 run, closing the gap to two, 17-15. Bailey Meyer sank a Greensburg three, but Burson got one of those back at the stripe, with the Lady Cats taking a 20-16 deficit to the locker room at halftime.
‘That was an ugly start,’ Voyles said. ‘We were timid. I’m not used to us being timid. That was the absolute opposite of what I expected of the start of the game. I told them before the game that I really thought we needed to establish an inside presence early, and I think they took that a little too literally and decided that no one would shoot unless they were passing it inside. I thought they were really trying too hard to put the ball in on a double-team. We had to reiterate that other people could score also.’
Lady Cat sophomore Hallie Hinton said Greensburg’s intense man defense made it tough for her team to get the ball where it wanted it.
‘At first, we weren’t used to it because we do play against a lot of 2-3s,’ Hinton said. ‘It’s harder for us to try to get the ball inside. We were getting a lot of pressure on us, and our entry passes were harder to make. We kind of came together, and we were like, ‘We’ve got to change something here.’ So, we did.’
Burson immediately closed the gap to two with a 15-footer to begin the second half. The Lady Pirates fought to pull away, but North Harrison would have nothing of it, staying within one, 27-26, when Taylor Rennirt sank a long deuce. Taylor McIntosh sank a three for the Lady Pirates for a 32-28 Greensburg lead. Hinton finished the quarter with two freebies and a jumper she hooked in just as the buzzer sounded for a 32-all tie with one quarter left.
Voyles said Greensburg’s defense made it tough to get the ball inside to Hatton.
‘We’ve seen Lilly double-teamed all year long,’ she said. ‘I didn’t feel like we were moving the ball as well as we should have been early. We were trying to take it in there too quickly on the double-team and not looking for the reversal, not looking for trying to gap and get into the lane and create better one-on-one situations for her. We were just kind of impatient and quickly trying to get it in there.’
‘Obviously, if I’m double-teamed, someone’s open,’ Hatton said. ‘It’s about getting the ball to somebody that is open. Carlie has had a huge sectional and even the regional. She’s already had a good game knowing, if I’m double teamed, she’s open. It’s about hitting that open person, so I’m grateful that we have other players who know when to pick their moments.’
Both teams failed to score in the first two minutes of the fourth then Hatton got a deuce on a put-back to give the Lady Cats their first lead of the day, 34-32.
The Lady Pirates came back with five free throws and a deuce to lead by five, 39-34. Hinton then pushed North Harrison’s hot button, getting five quick points to tie at 39. The free-throw line became the Lady Cats’ best friend as Rennirt connected four times. Hatton added a fifth freebie, and the North Harrison lead was five, 44-39, with 29 seconds left on the clock.
Kyra Whitaker countered with a three-ball, and Greensburg called timeout down two with 18.9 seconds left in the game.
Both teams turned the ball over on their next possessions, then the Lady Cats called timeout to regroup. Rennirt got the ball and was immediately fouled by McIntosh with 7.5 seconds left. The sophomore sank both freebies, sealing the game, and the Lady Cats advanced into the final 46-42.
‘You don’t see a lot of intense man like that,’ Voyles said. ‘The beginning of the year Jeff has pretty good full-court man and New Albany plays pretty good man. … This team is very disciplined in man-to-man. Of all the films I’ve watched, I never saw them play anything but man. That’s what we prepared for all week. I was worried he’d come in and play a 2-3 zone because I hadn’t touched a zone defense all week long.’
Rennirt led the Lady Cats with 14 points, and Hinton was right behind with 12. Hatton finished with 11 points for the Lady Cats, who were 12 of 37 from the field (32 percent) and 21 of 27 from the free-throw line while committing 13 turnovers.
‘I’ve always said Hallie is my gamer,’ Voyles said. ‘She really is. You’re going to play a team that’s not as good as us, and we’re going to win by 30. Her concentration level is not what it is, but, the more intense the game becomes, the better she tends to focus and play.’
Whitaker led Greensburg with 19 points, and Meyer finished with 11. The Lady Pirates hit 14 of 39 shots from the field (36 percent) and had 21 turnovers.
Voyles’ big wish for the championship game was to leave the timidness at the door.
‘I didn’t expect us to be timid this morning, and I don’t expect us to be tonight,’ she said. ‘We play two seniors, two juniors and a lot of young kids. Getting out here in this atmosphere and this kind of crowd, I think that was probably a little overwhelming. But now they know what they’ve got coming.’

Greensburg 11 9 12 10 ‘ 42
North Harrison 2 14 16 14 ‘ 46
Greensburg (22-4) ‘ A. Meyer 2, McIntosh 8, B. Meyer 11, Whitaker 19, Lynette 2
North Harrison (26-2) ‘ Rennirt 14, Burson 9, Hatton 11, Hinton 12
3-point goals ‘ Greensburg 9 (Whitaker 5, B. Meyer 3, McIntosh); North Harrison 1 (Hinton).