Lady Cats pull away from 2A No. 2 Eastern
At the end of February, two Mid-Southern Conference teams were on the floor at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, playing for a state championship in their respective classes.
Friday night in Pekin, the opener for North Harrison, saw the Lady Cats tangle with fellow state finalist Eastern (Pekin).
An 11-0 run out of halftime helped North Harrison break away from the Class 2A No. 2 Lady Musketeers for a 63-45 triumph.
Not only was it a match-up of high quality teams, a player from each team ” North Harrison’s Cali Nolot and Eastern’s Rachel Stewart ” were part of the South Indiana Junior All-stars during the summer. Often, the two were trying to prevent the other from scoring Friday.
Nolot took the challenge and came up with a big scoring night. She closed with a game-high 28 points, including a 3-pointer to kick-off a key second-half run for the Lady Cats. Nolot was no slouch on the defensive end, disrupting Eastern to swipe six steals.
‘She had a really pretty good performance for her,’ North Harrison coach Missy Voyles said of Nolot, a senior. ‘Other than a few silly fouls, she had an overall really good game.’
Junior Lilly Hatton, per usual, drew plenty of attention in the post. She managed to fight for 20 points, helping her eclipse the 1,000 career-point mark. Hatton came into the game within 13 points of the plateau.
Not only continuing to show her strength near the basket, Hatton displayed her range by hitting an early 3-pointer. Inside, Hatton had to fend off bodies to put up shots on the block.
‘Lilly takes a beating,’ Voyles said of the 6-foot-1 forward. ‘I understand she is a big girl, but she has to throw them off.’
Eastern started the game with a pair of Veronica Judson 3-pointers from the left wing for a 6-5 lead, causing Voyles to signal for a time-out.
North Harrison responded and started to push the ball in transition, resulting in Nolot going coast to coast for a bucket.
Once the Lady Cats went up 9-8 on a pair of Hatton free throws, North Harrison never allowed Eastern to have the lead on the scoreboard again.
Taylor Rennirt scored a pair of field goals in the first quarter for North Harrison. At the end of eight minutes, Eastern used seven made free throws to even the score at 13-all.
Looking to put the game away in the second quarter, North Harrison went on an 11-2 outburst. Nolot had a field goal then later pushed the ball up the floor to a sprinting Rennirt for two points. Hatton and Nolot got to the line as well, sinking free throws for a 24-15 North Harrison advantage.
During the final three minutes of the second quarter, Eastern returned to the ball game. Stewart netted a field goal followed by six straight points from Isabell Claywell. A single make by Stewart prompted an even score for the final time at 24.
With 40 seconds to go, Nolot stepped back to bury a 3-pointer. A Hatton field goal inside prompted a 29-24 half-time score.
‘I think we lost some patience and became frustrated with not getting some body calls they felt they should have got inside,’ Voyles said. ‘They played through that. We are a physical team, so we didn’t back down from what we do. It was also the first game of the year.’
Play steadied on the offensive end for North Harrison in the second half. The first possession saw Nolot put down another triple, this time from the top of the key. Hatton, strong on the glass, took three tips near the rim before a shot fell for a 34-24 lead.
Combination play of Nolot to Rennirt in the full court resulted in the latter scoring while drawing a foul.
Despite Claywell scoring to break up the 11-0 start, North Harrison used two more field goals to go up 44-26. Hallie Hinton assisted on a field goal with a lob to Hatton.
Eastern scored one field goal in the third quarter but went to the charity stripe eight times for seven points. Late in the third, Eastern coach Michael McBride was issued a technical foul as his team eventually trailed by 15 after three quarters.
Voyles said the offensive execution had its good and bad moments.
‘We know what we are running, but, at times we weren’t patient to run our offense as well as we could,’ Voyles said. ‘We weren’t setting screens as well as we should have to create things. It wasn’t smooth.’
Emma Nokes helped put the game out of reach in the fourth. She knocked down a corner 3-pointer then used a feed from Rennirt to score inside.
The win put the defending 3A state runner-up at 1-0 on the season, notching a key MSC win. Eastern, coming off a 2A state title, dropped to 1-1. The Lady Musketeers opened with a 46-35 victory over Crawford County.
To go with Nolot’s 28 points, Hatton had a double-double with 20 points and 11 rebounds. She also blocked four shots. Rennirt closed with 10 points, while Nokes contributed five.
Eastern’s leading scorer was Claywell with 16 points, while Stewart finished with 15.
North Harrison is slated to play at Scottsburg on Saturday then return home Nov. 22 to face Silver Creek. Both games will tip at 7:30 p.m.
North Harrison 13 16 19 15 ‘ 63
Eastern (Pekin) 13 11 9 12 ‘ 45
North Harrison (1-0, 1-0 MSC) ‘ Nolot 28, Hatton 20, Rennirt 10, Nokes 5.
Eastern (Pekin) (1-1, 0-1 MSC) ‘ Claywell 16, Stewart 15, Judson 6, Graves 3, Sill 3, Emmert 2.
3-point goals ‘ North Harrison 4 (Nolot 2, Hatton, Nokes); Eastern 3 (Judson 2, Sill).