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Lady Cats squeak past Corydon Central

Lady Cats squeak past Corydon Central
Lady Cats squeak past Corydon Central
North Harrison junior Ali Saunders splits Corydon Central’s Ava Weber, left, and Bailey Orme in the second half of the Lady Cats’ 57-53 win. Photo by Wade Bell
Wade Bell, Sports Writer

Each time North Harrison and Corydon Central get together in any sport, you can usually count on drama, heroics, flying fingernails and intense situations. Such was the case Thursday night when the two girls’ basketball teams got together at the home of the Lady Cats with the game being determined in the final few minutes, with North Harrison getting a four-point, 57-53, win over the Lady Panthers.

“It’s an emotional game,” said North Harrison coach Jamie Kolkmeier. “It’s a rivalry game. It’s senior night, and there’s always some emotions that go with that. Even though it wasn’t the last game, we were running senior night and recognizing them.”

“I thought we responded well at the end,” he said. “There were times early where I thought maybe emotions got the better of us. We fouled too much. We reached a lot. We didn’t move our feet. We didn’t react on the pass soon enough, defensively, so we ended up getting behind a lot of cutters.”

“We talked about you don’t need home runs,” said Corydon Central coach Josh Conrad. “You just need singles. We tried to make some home runs in that third quarter and in those two possessions in the fourth.”

Most of the first quarter was spent with the two teams trading baskets. North Harrison took an initial 4-0 lead then the trading session began. The Lady Panthers got two chances at the end of quarter to get back within one but misfired twice. North Harrison led 13-9 after the first eight minutes.

It was more of the same to start the second period, then North Harrison junior Ali Saunders drilled a three-ball for a 20-13 Lady Cats’ lead. Corydon Central countered with a 6-0 burst that also saw Saunders being called for her third foul on a charge, and the Lady Panthers’ deficit was down to one. Jaiden Cantrell later scored inside and converted a free throw following a North Harrison turnover, tying the game at 22.

Skylie Burns drilled a three for the Lady Cats, but Corydon Central countered with four to lead by one. Diana Burgher had the final basket of the half, and North Harrison had a one-point edge, 27-26, as the two teams went to the locker room.

“Offensively, I thought we did a good job whenever we got the ball reversed and were able to look inside and got that extra kickout,” Conrad said. “We had so many possessions where we didn’t do that.”

“For the most part, they were probably the more aggressive team,” Kolkmeier said. “They were the more physical team. We were back on our heels a little bit at times. We were just able to bounce back and make a couple of shots and rebound that well enough to overcome that.”

The lead changed five times during the first few minutes of the third quarter. Ava Weber scored in the paint to put the Lady Panthers up by four, 35-31, midway through the period. Saunders countered inside, and Burns got two in the lane to tie the game back at 35. Saunders was then hit with her fourth foul and was forced to the bench.

The Lady Cats missed their next shot, then Kayla Willoughby hit for two, giving the lead back to the Lady Panthers. If there was any panic by the Lady Cats with Saunders on the bench, it didn’t show as the Lady Cats scored the next six. Jessica Fulk scored late in the period for the Lady Panthers, and North Harrison had a three-point edge with one quarter to go.

“The third quarter really hurt us,” Conrad said. “We just stopped attacking. We came out a little timid in that third quarter and had too many unforced turnovers where we can stop and make the pass to the open person but we’re still trying to thread the needle to make a difficult pass. I think we had too many of those and didn’t really capitalize on possessions in that quarter.”

Weber and Burgher traded baskets twice to start the fourth, the advantage staying in favor of the Lady Cats. Grace Erwin briefly closed the gap to one, but Burgher countered with a deuce-and-one and North Harrison’s lead went back to four. Saunders came back into the game and didn’t take long to score, pushing the Lady Cats’ lead to six, 50-44. With 1:52 left in the game, Audrey Tucker gave the Lady Cats their biggest lead of the night with two free throws and a 52-44 gap.

The Lady Panthers were still not out of it. Weber and Willoughby scored inside, closing the gap to four, but Saunders cashed in a pair from the charity stripe. Fulk answered with a Corydon Central three-ball, cutting the lead in half. Burgher and Weber traded baskets, then Corydon Central called timeout with 20.7 seconds to go. Fulk was called for her fourth foul, and Tucker hit one of two freebies for a 57-53 edge. The Lady Panthers turned the ball over on their final possession, and North Harrison had the four-point win.

“I keep saying we’ve got to understand timing situations better,” Kolkmeier said. “I like to think we do. We didn’t act like that at times tonight. There’s probably a little bit where it comes down to the inconsistency of practice schedules. Not being here, basically we came back last Wednesday from quarantine, played Thursday night, played last Friday and played Saturday afternoon and practiced yesterday.”

“The third quarter got us back on our heels a little bit,” said Conrad. “We still had a chance. I think we were down one in the fourth quarter, and we made turnovers on back-to-back possessions. It was just stuff that you don’t need. You have an awkward pass or a jump-stop-kickout and you get a nice shot, but we just kind of tried to make the more difficult pass.”

Burgher led the Lady Cats with 21, and Saunders finished with 15 despite sitting several minutes on the bench in the second half. The Lady Cats connected on 21 of 44 shots from the field (48%) and 12 of 18 free throws. North Harrison had 10 turnovers for the game.

Kolkmeier praised his supporting cast for taking up the slack for the benched Saunders.

“Diana had a big game with 21 (points) and 10 (rebounds) and really made a couple of critical plays there and she rebounded great,” Kolkmeier said. “We’re going to need her to just continue to get better and be more aggressive. I’d like to see her be more aggressive offensively.

“Audrey (Tucker) hit some big free throws. Molly Coomer, who struggled a little bit in the third and fourth quarters, made a great defensive play at the end on Weber and finally got it off her right hand and made her change direction. Everybody came back and had a great learning lesson, and we were able to be tough enough when it could have gotten away from us.

“We don’t want to play very many minutes without (Saunders) on the court, but tonight we got some opportunities for people to make plays and they did an outstanding job,” he said. “McKenna Pearson played really well. I thought Skylie and Audrey really handled the ball for us well.”

Weber led the Lady Panthers with 16 points, and Willoughby finished with 10 on the night. The Lady Panthers hit 20 of 44 field goals (45%) and 10 of 18 free throws. They had 13 turnovers for the 32 minutes.

“I think, defensively, we need to raise some awareness,” Conrad said. “There were a lot of times there we didn’t necessarily guard people or spots. We never really got back in transition. Good teams like North Harrison make you pay with that. That’s something we can look at and grow up a little bit.”

Both teams have one more week to fine tune before next week’s sectional play at Madison Consolidated. Corydon Central will meet Salem in the sectional opener, and North Harrison will take on the host in game three.

“We have to get better in timing situations,” Kolkmeier said. “When we did get that lead back, our timing situation was not that great. Sometimes you just have to make plays. I told them yesterday, and this is true all of the time, we can talk about coach and we can talk about plays. Coaches don’t win games; players win games. We’ll do the best we can to try to put you in good position and coach you to try to make you a better player but, at the end of the day, the team whose players play the best are going to win the game in most cases. I thought our girls had some resilience there and were able to pass the ball against the trap and not panic.”

Burgher gets 35 in win over Charlestown

Burgher hit six three-pointers in the first half on Saturday afternoon, propelling her to a 35-point performance as the Lady Cats turned back Charlestown 65-60 in another Mid-Southern Conference game.

Burgher shot 13 of 18 from the field, including 6 of 8 from three-point range. She also grabbed a team-high 12 rebounds for a double-double.

Saunders added 20 points and was a perfect 6 for 6 from the floor and 6 for 7 at the charity stripe while also handing out seven assists and makimg four steals.

Charlestown                  15   21   12   12- 60

North Harrison               19   20     8   18 – 65

Charlestown (6-8, 1-5 MSC) – N/A

North Harrison (12-3, 6-2) – Burgher 35, Saunders 20, Burns 6, Pearson 4.

3-point goals – North Harrison 8 (Burgher 6, Saunders 2).

Corydon Central             9   18   12   14 – 53

North Harrison              13   13   16   15 – 57

Corydon Central (9-9, 5-3) – Weber 16, Willoughby 10, Cantrell 9, Orme 8, Erwin 5, Fulk 5.

North Harrison (11-3, 5-2) – Burgher 21, Saunders 15, Burns 7, Pearson 7, Coomer 4, Tucker 3.

3-point goals – Corydon Central 3 (Orme 2, Fulk 1); North Harrison 3 (Burns 1, Pearson 1, Saunders 1).