Turnovers doom Lady Cats in sectional OT
By Brandon Miniard, Sports Writer, [email protected]
For any team that ends the regular season on a losing streak, the postseason is seen as a chance to reverse one’s fortunes.
That concept is no different for the North Harrison Lady Cats, who finished the regular season riding an eight-game skid prior to hosting the Indiana High School Athletic Association’s Sectional 30. The Lady Cats transitioned into post-season play last Wednesday when they confronted Madison Consolidated.
The Lady Cats have had their difficulties against the Lady Cubs during the past handful of seasons, losing their last three contests against the Lady Cubs. Their last standoff came 364 days ago when the Lady Cubs ended the Lady Cats’ season 50-46 in the first round of sectional.
Looking to end their losing ways, the Lady Cats played the Lady Cubs tough despite poor shooting the first half. While the Lady Cats managed to force overtime, turnovers in the bonus period caused the Lady Cats’ demise as their season concluded with a 44-38 loss.
“We were trying to handle the ball better because we turned the ball over a lot in the last month,” skipper Jamie Kolkmeier said. “I thought we handled the pressure well, and we moved our zone a little bit to be better against ball penetration and protect the paint a little bit better. To be honest with you, for all of our deficiencies defensively, we were pretty good tonight.”
The Lady Cats’ bid for revenge got off to a frigid start as the Lady Cubs started the contest on a 7-0 run, powered by buckets from Cadence Traylor, Mary Johnson and Cameron Cahall alongside a free throw by Casey Dyer amid four Lady Cats’ turnovers within the contest’s first five minutes. After being blanked on the scoreboard for much of the quarter, senior wing Diana Burgher took the lid off the basket with a driving layup in the period’s final minute and a half, though it only cut the deficit to 7-2 to end the opening frame.
The second quarter started out poorly for the Lady Cats as the Lady Cubs inflated the deficit with a 10-4 run, powered primarily by five points from Cahall, followed by freebies from Alaina Kelley and Patty Johnson and three points from Lynch. Burgher continued to carry the offense on her shoulders with six points, but sophomore Sydney Smith ended the first half’s scoring for either side with two free throws before the Lady Cats retreated to the locker room down 19-10.
“Lynch is a good player, a 1,000-point scorer for (Madison); they run a lot of their stuff through her, and Cahall has had a really good second half of the year,” Kolkmeier said. “What came back to get us was their other kids did a nice job of aggressively going to the boards. We gave up a lot of offensive rebounds. We were fighting like crazy, but we didn’t get enough of those long rebounds.”
Smith started the second half the same way she ended the first, with a successful trip to the free-throw line. The two freebies were the genesis of an 11-4 run as Smith went off for seven points in the period, including the contest’s first three-pointer alongside a bucket from senior forward Emma Robertson. The four Lady Cubs’ points during that span came from the hand of Lynch as she tried to keep the lead intact, but Burgher tied the game with four of her six points on a turnaround post hook followed by a mid-range jumper to give the Lady Cats their first lead of the night. Between those buckets was a free throw from Cahall, who ended the quarter with the Lady Cubs’ first triple, sending them into the final quarter with a slim 27-25 edge.
The Lady Cats continued their gritty performance to begin the fourth quarter with another Smith triple despite putbacks from Dyer and Traylor. Lynch and Cahall each notched buckets to take a 35-28 advantage with three minutes to go, but buckets from Burgher and junior guard Audrey Tucker helped cut the gap to one. After a Cahall free throw, Burgher overcame being surrounded by three Lady Cubs defenders to lay in the tying basket. Despite Lynch attempting her best Luka Doncic impression with a step-back three at the buzzer, the shot rimmed in before rolling back out, sending the contest into overtime tied at 36.
“We were able to find some people (to score). Sydney came in and knocked down some shots, Emma made a good move on the baseline and scored, then Audrey made a good move through the lane, so we had a team offense going,” Kolkmeier said. “We had the ball moving a bit better and going side to side more. We didn’t stand around as much (in the second half).”
Four minutes of free basketball proved disastrous for the Lady Cats as the Lady Cubs’ defense frazzled them for six turnovers in the period, resulting in four points apiece from Traylor and Cahall. Between those spurts for each Lady Cub was a final Burgher bucket, though it could only cut the deficit to a season-ending 44-38 loss.
Cahall was the Lady Cats’ biggest problem matchup-wise as she led the Lady Cubs with 18 points followed by Lynch’s nine. Burgher’s high school swan song saw her put up a double-double with 22 points and 13 rebounds as well as six blocks. Smith was the only other Lady Cat to reach double figures with 12. Turnovers drove a stake through the heart of the Lady Cats’ season as they committed 20 miscues, while the Lady Cubs had exactly half that total.
With the loss, the Lady Cats conclude the 2021-22 season on a nine-game losing streak, their last victory coming against rival Salem on Dec. 16, the final game in the high school career of former senior guard Ali Saunders. With their season having now drawn to a close, the Lady Cats will also say goodbye to their remaining quartet of seniors: Burgher, Robertson, Molly Coomer and McKenna Pearson.
“McKenna’s been a real smart player for us and played some good minutes tonight. Emma Robertson, who had a really good past week, gave really good effort and is a high energy player. Molly usually gets that smile on her face, then sometimes she gets and is so determined that that smile goes away, but we’ve asked her to do a lot of things,” Kolkmeier said. “Then, of course, there’s Diana, who we leaned on heavily this last month. It was tough for her at first because her role changed. She was always a big part of our plans, but she had so much pressure shifted to her, so I was really proud of the way she handled it.”