Lady Cats ground Eastern, 53-50
Wade Bell, Sports Writer
The North Harrison Lady Cats scored a come-from-behind win Friday night when they rallied from 13 points down to upend the visiting Lady Musketeers of Eastern Pekin. They did it a little short-handed with senior starter Skylie Burns off in quarantine as well as without head coach Jamie Kolkmeier, who was also in quarantine due to being exposed to the coronavirus. The win moved the Lady Cats to an early three-way tie with Brownstown and Salem for the top spot of the Mid-Southern Conference race.
“Very ugly,” said North Harrison varsity assistant coach Barry Geltmaker. “We finally played good at about the middle of the third quarter to the end. To start the second half, we just came out flat and didn’t do anything. The middle of the third quarter on we played good defense. We got out on them. We started switching on some of the switches we should have done. We went after it pretty hard.”
The Lady Cats got off to a good start, taking a 6-0 lead as the Lady Musketeers misfired on their first five shots, four of those from behind the arc. That lead, however, didn’t last long as Eastern countered with a 13-4 run, hitting three triples in the run. Ali Saunders put down a pair of freebies at the end of the quarter, but Eastern had a 13-12 edge at the end of the period.
Saunders said the team didn’t really take the game seriously at the start.
“Before the game, none of us were thinking ballgame,” she admitted. “We were goofing off in the locker room. Even the whole first half, you could tell it on the floor as well. I didn’t think we got our heads out of our butts ’til the second half, and I think that showed on the defensive end especially.”
Things got a little worse in the second period as Kendra Sill drilled a Eastern three-ball and Kyia McKinley pumped in a deuce for an 18-12 lead. Saunders got three of those back on a deuce-and-one. At that point, the two teams had a short trading session. Saunders and Diana Burgher scored in the paint, and Burgher added a free throw to tie the game at 22. Moments later McKenna Jeter swished a three. Saunders answered with another old-fashioned three to keep the game tied. With a second left on the clock, McKinley buried a long three, and the Lady Musketeers took a 28-25 edge to the locker room at halftime.
“I think we got way too comfortable with that first lead,” said Saunders. “We settled down and we slowed down, and our intensity level even dropped. I think we got way too comfortable, and they noticed that. They picked up on that energy, and they just attacked at the right time. It got to us for sure. They made that big comeback and took a 10-point lead.”
“We did a lot of that last year, too,” Geltmaker said. “We forgot the shooters about three times down the floor. (Sill), you can’t leave her, and we left her wide open. She missed the first three but after that she didn’t miss.”
Burgher converted off an Eastern turnover to start the second half, but Sill drilled another three in return then later added a deuce for good measure. Ava Sowder continued the Eastern run with a deuce, and Lily Crumpton scored inside. Moments later Sill hit from behind the arc again, and the Lady Musketeers had a 40-27 lead.
At that point, the Lady Cats knew they had to do something. Molly Coomer drilled a quick three from the right side, and Burgher later added a free throw. Shelbi Patton scored for Eastern, but Saunders negated that with a deuce-and-one. McKinley sank one of two free throws, then the Lady Musketeers called timeout. Neither team scored after the break, and the Lady Cats went into the fourth quarter with a nine-point deficit, 43-34.
Following the break, Eastern made three straight turnovers and North Harrison converted all three times to close the distance to within three, 43-40, following a Saunders deuce. The Lady Cats also got work done from the free-throw line with Burgher and Saunders hitting three of four free throws after Crumpton was called for her third and fourth fouls.
Jeter, however, responded for the Lady Musketeers with a three-ball and a deuce in the paint for a little breathing room. Saunders scored again, but Patton countered with a deuce. Burgher then drilled a three from right center to put the Lady Cats on top 51-50. Following a timeout, Eastern immediately fouled Mc-
Kenna Pearson, who went to the line for two shots. Pearson, with ice water running through her veins, easily sank both from the charity stripe with no hesitation. Eastern got off a pair of threes but went down in flames in a 53-50 loss.
“I think getting our butts ripped at halftime helped a lot just to get us back in the game,” said Saunders. “A little heart to heart with the main three right in your face, it kills the mood a little bit but that also fires you up to go back out and play the second half. I was just proud of my group for not giving up and continuing to work. I think that’s the toughest we’ve played.”
“Hopefully, they know how tough it’s going to be for them to play the rest of the way,” Geltmaker said. “If you slow down any at all, you see they can put 10 on us really quick. You’ve got to play the whole game, and we’ve got to be in good shape to finish the whole game.”
Saunders led the Lady Cats with 27 points for the night, and Burgher followed with 16. North Harrison connected on 18 of 42 field goals (43%) and 15 of 22 free throws. The Lady Cats had 14 turnovers.
“Ali played really well,” Geltmaker said. “I got on her a few times for not taking the ball to the basket instead of shooting those little fade-aways. They were going to foul you if you went in. They fouled a lot. You’ve just got to take the ball to them and let them foul you. Diana, she did struggle a little bit with them beating around her. She finally hit a big three for us.”
“Another person who played really good for us was Molly Coomer,” he said. “She played hard, hit a three for us. She got some rebounds for us and played good defense. We finally put her on Sill and said, ‘Hey, you’ve just got to stick with that girl and quit trying to go around. You’ve got to stay with her.’ She did at the end, so she played a really good game tonight.”
“I was really shocked we out-rebounded them,” said Geltmaker. “We did great from the middle of the third quarter on. Before that, we gave them three in a row because she shot ’til she made it. We played hard, and they toughened up there at the end. I was really proud of them.”
Sill led Eastern with 14, cashing in four three-balls. Patton and Jeter each had 11 points for the Lady Musketeers, who hit 18 of 42 from the field (43%) and 3 of 5 from the free-throw line. Eastern had 18 turnovers for the game.
North Harrison has some tough games this week with Crawford County (last night, Tuesday) and Scottsburg on Saturday.
“Our biggest problem we’ve not got much depth,” Geltmaker said. “We have no depth really at all. They have to play the whole game no matter what. We really miss Skylie not being here. Her quickness would have helped us. She shot the ball against Jeff really well. If we get that from her, we’ll get a lot better.”
Eastern Pekin 13 15 15 7 – 50
North Harrison 12 13 9 19 – 53
Eastern Pekin (2-1) – Sill 14, Jeter 11, Patton 11, Ky. McKinley 7, Casey 3, Crumpton 2, Sowder 2
North Harrison (2-0) – Saunders 27, Burgher 16, Coomer 8, Pearson 2
3-point goals – Eastern 9 (Sill 4, Jeter 3, Casey 1, Patton 1); North Harrison 4 (Saunders 2, Burgher 1, Coomer 1).