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Free throws save Lady Cats against NA

Free throws save Lady Cats against NA
Free throws save Lady Cats against NA
North Harrison sophomore Kyra Case put up the second of her two winning free throws in the Lady Cats’ 53-51 win over New Albany. Photo by Wade Bell
Wade Bell, Sports Writer

The North Harrison Lady Cats basketball team nearly let one get away Friday night when the visiting New Albany Lady Dogs made a fourth-quarter run to hopefully steal the night. North Harrison sophomore Kyra Case, however, said no to that by calmly planting two free throws with mere seconds left to give the Lady Cats a 53-51 win.

“We’ve kind of been not knowing who’s going to be at practice,” said coach Jaime Kolkmeier, whose team was down to nine players due to COVID-19. “It seems like the last week a single person, ‘Oh, she’s gone for a week’ or ‘She’s gone for 10 days.’ Last night, we didn’t have a good practice … and we thought somebody we were around was going to get a positive test and thought we were going to get quarantined. We just haven’t had great focus on that area, and we haven’t competed against each other very hard.”

Neither team looked that good through the first half Friday, but the Lady Cats got the early jump with a 12-5 lead in the first period as New Albany hit just 2 of 9 shots from the field in the first period.

In the second quarter, Diana Burgher gave North Harrison a double-digit lead, scoring twice in the paint. Alaina Walker scored for the Lady Dogs inside, but McKenna Pearson drilled a three-ball for a 19-7 North Harrison lead. The Lady Cats went on to hit six of their 13 shots in the period, keeping a breathable distance. New Albany struggled with 13 turnovers in the half as the Lady Cats had a 27-19 lead at halftime.

“I don’t think we played as hard as we usually play,” Kolkmeier said. “We’ve got two girls that play really hard, and the other girls have got to come in and play hard. We didn’t do that for the whole game. We didn’t rebound well. We didn’t keep the ball in front of us.”

Taylor Treat drilled a New Albany three to start the second half, but Emma Robertson and Molly Coomer countered with deuces. Treat bagged another three to pull New Albany back within six. The trading continued as Ali Saunders cashed in a pair of freebies, which was quickly negated by Maleea Roland. Pearson followed with a second triple, and Saunders later scored inside, giving North Harrison a 38-27 advantage halfway through the quarter.

Following a New Albany time out, Treat immediately drilled another three-ball. Points went back and forth from that point, and the Lady Cats had a 44-34 advantage with one period left.

An Arctic chill swept over the Lady Cats in the fourth quarter as North Harrison hit just one of 10 shots from the field in the eight minutes. New Albany made an 8-3 run during the first three minutes of the quarter, forcing Kolkmeier to call time out. Burgher hit one of two free throws, but the Lady Dogs countered with five points, Treat hitting again from behind the arc.

The free-throw line kept North Harrison out in front. Case cashed in two with about three minutes to go, but those were negated when Roland scored in the paint. With 2:02 left in the game, Burgher was called for her fifth foul, sending her to the bench. Saunders and Roland later traded singles, and the game was tied at 51 with 1:14 to go. Both teams failed to convert on their next possessions. With :04.2 left, Case was fouled and easily sank both free throws. Treat got a shot off at the end but it went wide, allowing the Lady Cats to escape with the win.

“Kyra stepped up and hit two big free throws, which was good for her … that’s a good thing for a young kid to be able to come in when you haven’t played a whole lot,” said Kolkmeier.

“We just weren’t very good defensively the whole fourth quarter,” he continued. “We’re like everybody else. We’re going to play games without people. Trying to find some kind of offensive rhythm, basically, teams are going to do their best of not letting Ali beat them. So, they’re just doubling her like crazy. We told her to just put (her) head down and go, but you can’t beat anybody good like that. We were trying to find some players who don’t normally play at times, of getting in and being able to do some things, and we weren’t very good at it.”

Saunders led the Lady Cats with 21 points. North Harrison put in 18 of 49 field goals (37%) and 15 of 19 free throws. The Lady Cats finished with 18 turnovers for the game.

“Ali didn’t have her best game either,” Kolkmeier said. “We’ve got to develop some more players, and we’ve got to move the ball a little bit better. Right now, we’re relying on one person to dribble the ball. But we can’t throw it to people and turn it over either. … ”

The North Harrison coach said, “We’ve not been good on offense for a while for a couple of games here. I didn’t think we were very good offensively in some of those other games before. Ali was able to bail us out. Now teams are saying they’re going to make it harder.”

Treat led New Albany with 24 points on the night, canning five shots from behind the arc. Roland and Layne Burke each had 10 from the Lady Dogs, who put in 17 of 55 field goals (31%) and 10 of 15 from the charity stripe. New Albany finished the game with 17 turnovers.

“I think we’ve still got a long way to go,” Kolkmeier said of his team’s defense. “We seem to get lost at the wrong time. Again, that comes back, if you’ve got one girl on the floor who’s not playing hard, the cutter always finds it. Unfortunately, if four girls play really hard and one doesn’t, it looks bad. We have not been good at guarding the ball. We’ve got to get better at that. We’ll keep working on it and try to get better for next week.”

The Lady Cats got some more bad news in the fourth quarter when Robertson took an elbow to the face and was thought to have a concussion. That puts North Harrison down to just eight players on the team. The team has four other players out due to COVID issues.

“You don’t know day by day,” Kolkmeier said. “We’re just playing by ear. The quarantine rules have changed. If somebody gets sick, you can’t make plans. I don’t have an answer other than that.”

New Albany                      5   14   15   17 – 51

North Harrison              12   15   17     9 – 53

New Albany (2-5) – Treat 24, Burke 10, Roland 10, Crowdus 6, Howard 1.

North Harrison (5-1) – Saunders 21, Burgher 8, Pearson 6, Robertson 6, Case 4, Coomer 4, Marinc 4.

3-point goals – New Albany 5 (Treat 5); North Harrison 2 (Pearson 2).