Saunders’ 36 rescues Lady Cats
Wade Bell, Sports Writer
In a tale of two halves, the North Harrison Lady Cats basketball team held off a furious charge by the Scottsburg Warriorettes on Saturday night for a 58-55 win. North Harrison junior Ali Saunders was the hero of the night for the Lady Cats, dumping in a career high of 36 points to secure a Mid-Southern Conference win.
“This is a great win for us, to know them being ranked third, and it’s another conference win,” Saunders said after the win. “Getting a conference win is always a plus.”
“The first half was probably the best game we’ve played all year, defense, offense, … ” said assistant coach Barry Geltmaker.
The Lady Cats came out with a fast and furious defense to start the game and also hit four of their first five shots racing out to a 12-2 lead. Carrie Hiler finally got a second shot to go down for Scottsburg, but Diana Burgher canceled out that one late in the period, North Harrison owning a 14-4 advantage at the end of the first quarter.
North Harrison kept up the heat and the momentum in the second period. Saunders drove the lane for two, and McKenna Pearson ripped a three-ball for a 19-4 lead. Allison McGlothlin and Kady Clancy scored, but Pearson drilled a second three and Molly Coomer added a deuce as North Harrison’s lead ballooned to 26-6.
Scottsburg got some of those back, with Hannah Stutsman putting in a deuce-and-one and Zoe Zellers cashing in a pair of freebies from the charity stripe. Saunders sandwiched free throws around a Zellers deuce, and the Lady Cats took a 30-13 lead to the locker room at halftime.
“We hit a lot of shots the first half,” Saunders said of her team that was 10 of 18 (56%) from the field the first half. “I was really pleased with our percentage going into halftime.”
Geltmaker said one area his team struggled in was rebounding.
“The biggest disappointment of the night was our rebounding,” he said. “We got out-rebounded terrible. Really in the first half, they wouldn’t have scored four points if we hadn’t have given them rebounds. That’s how they got back in the game again because we didn’t rebound then either.”
An icy chill fell upon the Lady Cats in the second half as they missed their first seven shots of their nine attempts in the quarter. Meanwhile, Scottsburg was getting lots of second chances, putting up 19 shots in the eight minutes and hitting seven of them. The Warriorettes made a 15-0 run to close the gap to three. Saunders kept the Lady Cats out front as North Harrison went into the fourth quarter with a 38-34 edge.
“We just look at those big leads and we get way too comfortable with them,” said Saunders. “We slow down. We just make careless turnovers. That’s when teams really take advantage of us, when we get those big leads, because they can eat away at it. Teams pick up on that. The second half not so good, and they started hitting some threes. Hannah Stutsman got hot. Kady Clancy, she started playing really well. That was our struggle.”
“They hit some shots the second half, and we just made some bonehead plays,” said Geltmaker. “After it got close, they hung in there and kept playing. We got the ball in the right hands. Diana was struggling with her shots tonight. Usually, she hits some of those. She had a couple of wide open looks and missed. They couldn’t handle Ali at all.”
Burgher put North Harrison back up by six to start the fourth, but McGlothlin answered with a deuce-and-one. From there, points went back and forth with the Lady Cats barely holding the edge. Scottsburg made the game more physical to put pressure on Saunders, but the North Harrison junior made them pay getting to the free-throw line. The North Harrison junior scored all of the Lady Cats final 16 points.
With seconds to go, McGlothlin scored twice inside to pull the Warriorettes within one, 56-55, and called timeout with 15.2 seconds to go. North Harrison ran nearly eight seconds off the clock when play resumed, and Scottsburg was forced to foul Saunders again. Saunders hit both shots, and the Lady Cats’ defense held in the final seconds for the 58-55 win.
“If Ali wanted to take a drive, she went in,” said Geltmaker. “She took the ball down the middle and held on to it and put it in. We went to spread the floor, and they’re either going to have to guard Ali or they’re going to have to guard Diana, one of the two. They couldn’t handle Ali, so Ali didn’t have to pass it. Usually, they try to help off and they didn’t. Diana is usually right there to shoot it. Ali got that step, and she took it right to the basket every time.”
“I thought our defense in the first half was a lot better,” said Saunders. “The second half it went down from there. Our defense definitely wasn’t as good.”
Saunders was the only North Harrison player in double figures, hitting 14 of 16 free throws in her 36-point effort. The Lady Cats were 18 of 36 from the field (50%) and 18 of 20 from the charity stripe. North Harrison finished the game with seven turnovers.
Saunders said free throws are always the best.
“They’re the biggest shots of the game; they’re the biggest points,” she said. “Free throws win games; free throws win championships. So, that’s what I’m thinking. When I get to the free-throw line, I’m like, ‘OK, that’s good. That’s what I was going for, to get to the line.’ There’s nothing better than a free throw. It’s two free points, honestly. I know I missed two of mine tonight but, as a team, we were 18 for 20, that’s 90%, and I was really happy with that.”
“I know they (Scottsburg) were probably upset with the fouls, but they bodied her under the basket,” Geltmaker said. “That’s what it is. She knew, when we went to spread, when I told her, ‘We’re still trying to score, but we want you to take it to the basket. If they stop you, then you kick it to Diana or McKenna in the corner. We didn’t have to because Ali had her beat, and they couldn’t hold her.”
Geltmaker also praised some of his other contributors.
“We came out right at the beginning, Emma (Robertson) scored and Molly scored,” he said. “(Audrey) Tucker took a shot and made it. Molly’s been trying to score a lot, too. She just didn’t have the opportunity to score as much tonight.”
Stutsman led Scottsburg with 14, and McGlothlin followed with 13. Zellers and Hiler added 10 each for the Warriorettes, who put in 19 of 52 field goals (37%) and 13 of 17 free throws. Scottsburg had 10 turnovers for the 32 minutes.
Tonight (Wednesday) will be a battle of unbeatens as North Harrison travels to Silver Creek; both have 4-0 records.
“I think Coach (Jamie) Kolkmeier will be back Wednesday,” Geltmaker said. “That will be a tough one. We won’t have Skylie (Burns) back, but we’ll play a good game. I just hope we hang in there … We’ll practice and get ready for Silver Creek now.”
Scottsburg 4 9 21 21 – 55
North Harrison 14 16 8 20 – 58
Scottsburg (2-1, 0-1 MSC) – Stutsman 14, McGlothlin 13, Hiler 10, Zellers 10, Clancy 8.
North Harrison (4-0, 2-0) – Saunders 36, Burgher 8, Pearson 6, Coomer 4, Robertson 2, Tucker 2.
3-pointers – Scottsburg 3 (Hiler 2, Stutsman 1); North Harrison 4 (Pearson 2, Saunders 2).