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Lady Cats maul Lady Rebels in season opener

Lady Cats maul Lady Rebels in season opener
Lady Cats maul Lady Rebels in season opener
North Harrison senior guard Ali Saunders elevates for a layup after faking out South Central junior guard Kendall Kiper, left, during the Lady Cats’ 65-17 win over the Lady Rebels last Wednesday. Saunders notched 19 points in the effort alongside a team-high seven rebounds. Photo by Brandon Miniard
Brandon Miniard, Sports Writer, [email protected]

As the sun set and already chilly temperatures dropped even more in Elizabeth last Wednesday, girls’ basketball was set to open the season for both host South Central and visiting rival North Harrison.

The season opener for both squads was a tale of two very different teams. One was an experienced North Harrison team that was mostly in sync in all facets of the game. The other was a South Central squad that fielded only eight players, including a pair of freshmen in Olivia Maley and Autumn Knear.

The Lady Cats had little problem dispatching the shorthanded Lady Rebels despite having a pair of absences. Sophomores Sydney Smith and Gracie Fouts missed the season opener due to possible COVID-19-related issues, though it mattered little as the Lady Cats took the contest with an emphatic 65-17 beatdown.

“Tonight was less about our game plan and more about us trying to do things the right way,” Lady Cats’ skipper Jamie Kolkmeier said. “I thought we did some things really well, but we still need to get a lot better defensively, as well as offensively with moving and passing the ball. There were times in the lanes where we ran down the middle a little too much.”

The Lady Rebels took a 3-2 lead courtesy of a three-pointer from junior Millie Spencer about two minutes into the first quarter. That lead would last a little more than 30 seconds before the Lady Cats shot ahead on a 12-0 assault to finish off the period, led by six points apiece from the senior all-conference duo of Ali Saunders and Diana Burgher. Spencer’s triple was the only three points the Lady Rebels could muster in the period as the first quarter ended with a 14-3 advantage.

The barrage merely continued into the second quarter as the Lady Cats expanded their advantage with a 14-2 surge. Saunders notched another seven points, while Burgher and freshman Lydia Wilkins chipped in five. The two points for the Lady Rebels during this stretch came from senior Georgia Faith.

The home portion of the scoreboard displayed the number 5 until just over three minutes remaining in the quarter when junior Kendall Kiper made a pair of free throws followed by a field goal with 2-1/2 minutes remaining. Those four points paced the Lady Rebels as they exited the court toward their locker room reeling from a 34-9 half-time deficit.

“(North Harrison) brought in two awesome players in Saunders and Burgher, so they were obviously a focus for us,” Lady Rebels’ head coach Lynne Thomas said. “We were trying to keep them out of the lane so they couldn’t score easy buckets, but also respecting the fact that they can shoot the three from pretty deep.”

Despite the 10-minute break, the Lady Rebels still struggled to find the bottom of the basket as Spencer’s second triple of the contest was once again the only points they could muster in the period. The Lady Cats, meanwhile, continued their wicked ways by way of Burgher, who notched 11 of her game-high 24 points in the third quarter. Saunders chipped in with her final two field goals of the night along with buckets from senior forward Molly Coomer and sophomore Graci Stegner, along with a triple from senior combo guard McKenna Pearson, resulting in the third quarter ending with a 56-12 Lady Cats’ edge.

With the new Indiana High School Athletic Association mercy rule in effect, the fourth quarter seemed to fly by despite the Lady Cats chipping away a little more. Junior forward Kyra Case led the effort in the period with five points alongside buckets from sophomores Meg Marinc and Madi Clunie. A three from Kiper and a field goal from Maley were all the Lady Rebels could muster in the final period before the final buzzer sounded, allowing the Lady Cats to leave Elizabeth with the 65-17 win.

“It’s not that we weren’t preparing for them, but my group is very young,” Thomas said. “I brought in a freshman point guard (Maley), so it was her first time in a varsity game, and my first sub off the bench was a freshman (Knear) as well. Getting them acclimated to the intensity of a varsity game was a big task for us.”

Burgher added to her 24 points six rebounds, while Saunders added 19 points and led the way with seven boards. Kiper led the Lady Rebels with seven points and six rebounds, while Spencer followed with six points on a pair of three-pointers.

Turnovers were the most drastic stat for the Lady Rebels as they committed 12 miscues, half of which were unforced. The Lady Cats notched 12 steals in the contest, led by Saunders’ five.

“We wanted to spend a little more effort on the defensive end, being more ready, intense, and being in our defensive stances,” Kolkmeier said. “Last week at our scrimmage (against Paoli), we didn’t set the right tone and didn’t guard very well. I still don’t think we guarded too well here because I thought (South Central) got some attacking first steps on us that we just gave up. Tonight was just about doing the right thing and playing the right way.”

The Lady Cats looked to build off their season-opening victory as they traveled to Jeffersonville on Friday, confronting former skipper Missy Voyles’ Lady Red Devils. Unfortunately for the Lady Cats, the outcome was a tight 43-42 loss to start the year at 1-1.

Now, the Lady Cats prepare for a tough weekend as they begin Mid-Southern Conference play against a pair of ranked opponents in Class 2A No. 11 Eastern (Pekin) on Friday and Class 3A No. 14 Charlestown the following night. Tipoff for both contests is slated for 7:30 p.m.

The Lady Rebels (0-1), meanwhile, will look to regroup before continuing their homestand against West Washington tomorrow (Thursday) at 7 p.m.

North Harrison             14   20   22     9 – 65

South Central                 3     6     3     5 – 17

North Harrison (1-0) – Burgher 24, Saunders 19, Case 5, Wilkins 5, Pearson 4, Clunie 2, Coomer 2, Marinc 2, Stenger 2.

South Central (0-1) – Kiper 7, Spencer 6, Faith 2, Maley 2.

3-point goals – North Harrison 6 (Burgher 2, Case 1, Pearson 1, Saunders 1, Wilkins 1); South Central 3 (Spencer 2, Kiper 1).