BNL halts Lady Cats’ run
Tucked on the far right side in a column all alone of the Class 4A Seymour Sectional program was the roster of the North Harrison Lady Cats’ basketball squad.
After all, the sectional has featured the same six schools since class basketball was enacted for the 1997-98 season, so an adjustment to squeezing in North Harrison was needed.
The Lady Cats were the newbies. The invader. Primed for an upset.
The memorable four-year run of North Harrison’s senior group, however, came to a stop at last Wednesday’s first round in Seymour. The six-time defending 4A sectional champion Bedford North Lawrence handed North Harrison its third loss of the season, 47-39, the second via the Stars.
‘We knew we had one of the toughest sectionals in 4A and knew it was going to be tough,’ North Harrison senior Cali Nolot said. ‘When we drew BNL, we were like, ‘Yeah, it’s revenge time.’ We went out there and played our hearts out.’
BNL won the regular-season meeting in Ramsey 58-43 a few weeks prior. In the post-season atmosphere, North Harrison cranked up its defense that haunted many teams during the previous seasons to challenge the Stars. The offense, however, struggled to score. The Lady Cats were held to 29-percent shooting from the floor and made just 6 of 14 free-throw attempts.
‘They are a good defensive team. They are a good offensive team. They are a good basketball team,’ North Harrison coach Missy Voyles said of the Stars. ‘We didn’t lose to a team that wasn’t as good, if not better, than we are.’
For the six seniors ‘ Taylor Rennirt, Shelby Kondovski, Hallie Hinton, Emma Nokes, Jessicka Chiquito and Nolot ‘ the wins certainly piled up through the years, going 93-19 in four seasons. They were Class 3A state runner-ups as sophomores and juniors then had to move to 4A due to the Indiana High School Athletic Association’s tournament success factor.
In 2017-18, the Lady Cats didn’t back down from opponents. Their only losses were to 4A No. 1 Pike and BNL. The bolstered schedule featured wins over Jeffersonville and Columbus East. There was no backing down to jumping up a class.
‘It’s hard for them right now,’ Voyles said. ‘They are as much sad that it is over as they are upset that they didn’t play their best game. I don’t know their overall win-loss record in those four years, but it’s amazing. Take away their freshmen year, look at what they have done as varsity players in their sophomore, junior and senior years. They’ve lost nine games. That’s pretty impressive.’
‘We still will look back at everything we have accomplished here as amazing,’ Nolot said. ‘One day we will all look back and realize we had one heck of a run.’
North Harrison had to work hard to create looks at the basket against the long and athletic Stars. A shot-blocking presence, North Harrison’s Lilly Hatton was handcuffed with two fouls in the first three minutes of action. It opened the door for BNL standout Jorie Allen to score the Stars’ first 11 points. Allen finished with 21.
‘(Hatton) was playing kind of timid after she picked up that second whistle,’ Voyles said. ‘That kind of threw her off. She started to play passive, trying not to pick up that third foul. At that point, you have to let her go play … She relaxed and played better in the second half.’
The Lady Cats were able to keep pace early on with Rennirt and Hinton burying 3-pointers. A steal by Rennirt led to Chiquito scoring in transition while drawing a foul to bring North Harrison within three points, 14-11, after one quarter. The first frame, however, saw the Lady Cats hit only 1 of 5 free throws.
A shot fake to attack the BNL zone led to Nolot scoring to open the second quarter. BNL then went on a 14-4 run, with 3-pointers falling for Jacy Hughes and McKenzie Messmore, to reach halftime up 28-17.
‘We told them at halftime, when I wasn’t very nice, I thought they were choking,’ Voyles said. ‘They came out and played a lot better. They played the way they play. They are not quitters. They never have been.’
It was all North Harrison to start the second half. Free throws by Nokes, after pulling an offensive board, started an 8-2 North Harrison burst. Hatton got going with a shot inside then scored in transition upon a Rennirt steal. The pressure defense was in a groove as Nolot hit the deck in the back-court diving for a steal try, forcing a BNL timeout.
‘We worked better as a team this time,’ Chiquito said. ‘Our defense wasn’t very good the first time we played them. We worked on it a lot in practice as soon as we drew Bedford.’
BNL went on to hold North Harrison scoreless in the last 5:10 of the third quarter while adding six more points for a 36-25 lead.
‘(BNL) does a really good job overloading their defense and making it difficult for us to get good shots off,’ Voyles said. ‘They make it difficult to get the ball in the high post.’
The frantic and fury of North Harrison’s defense caused the game to tighten up. The Lady Cats were able to turn BNL over 12 times, including five in the fourth quarter. Kondovski came off the bench in the second half to spark the defense, blocking a pair of shots.
‘It was about playing with everything you’ve got,’ Kondovski said.
Hatton scored a pair of field goals then took a pass from Nolot to swish a 3-pointer. The bucket brought North Harrison within three, 37-34, at the midway point of the fourth.
After BNL sank free throws, the Stars’ lead dwindled to two, 39-37, when Hatton converted a 3-point play with 3:20 to go. The action riled up the North Harrison faithful in the 8,100-seat Lloyd E. Scott Gymnasium.
‘They got after it and got us back in the game,’ Voyles said.
Then, Nolot picked up her fourth foul near mid-court when she attempted to steal the ball away from Allen. The groans of the crowd couldn’t overturn the whistle. From there, BNL went 8 of 10 at the line, closing out the Lady Cats.
‘A lot of things weren’t in our favor,’ Nolot said. ‘Shots weren’t falling, but we did the best we could. It didn’t work out.’
Hinton said adrenaline took over in the second half.
‘We thought we had it,’ she said. ‘There was a lot of heart put into this game, that’s why we left it all on the floor. It’s sad it’s ending this way. We’ve accomplished so much. It’s nothing to hang our heads about.’
Allen, a junior committed to Indiana University, finished with 21 points and eight boards. McKnight and Hughes had 10 points apiece.
For North Harrison (21-3), Hatton closed with 15 points and 12 rebounds. Nolot had 10 points and four assists. The senior group also had statistical contributions from Rennirt (five points, five rebounds, four steals, three assists), Kondovski (two blocks), Hinton (three points, three rebounds, two assists), Nokes (two points, three rebounds) and Chiquito (four points, one steal).
The Stars went on to win the sectional, defeating New Albany (50-49) and Jeffersonville (57-55, 2OT) along the way. The stout Seymour sectional has proven in the past to produce state champs with four since class basketball began. North Harrison assistant coach Angie Hinton led New Albany to a 4A title in 1999.
‘We fought back,’ Voyles said. ‘I can’t fault their effort. This is an amazing basketball team. They’ve had a great ride.’
North Harrison 11 6 8 14 ‘ 39
Bedford N.L. 14 14 8 11 ‘ 47
North Harrison (21-3) ‘ Hatton 15, Nolot 10, Rennirt 5, Chiquito 4, Hinton 3, Nokes 2.
Bedford North Lawrence (19-4) ‘ Allen 21, McKnight 10, Hughes 10, Messmore 4, Webb 2.
3-point goals ‘ North Harrison 3 (Hatton, Rennirt, Hinton); Bedford North Lawrence 3 (McKnight 2, Hughes).