Panthers Bow to Tigers
J. C. Tilton
The Tri-County North girls team drew the number 3 seeded West Liberty Salem Tigers in the opening round the state tournament. Although the North team would bow out of the tournament, it was a graceful bow. After a shaky start, the team played with the Tigers -who had only 2 losses in the regular season and gave them a close game.
Both teams were tentative in the opening quarter. North opened with a 2-3 zone on defense while Salem played man to man - occasionally going to a full court press. The Tigers hit their stride in the last half of the quarter, punctuated with 3 - 3 point shots in successive passions by Brooke Mayse. This pulled North out of their zone and into man to man to put pressure on the perimeter. North found themselves down 17-6 at the buzzer.
In the second quarter, it was North's turn to make a run. After spotting the Tigers a basket, they went on a 11-3 run. Rachael Heindl and Brittany Mullins scored and then Megan Thompson capped the run with two 3 point buckets. Suddenly the Panthers were back in the game. The Tigers went to a half court trap to get some momentum back. They did end the quarter with three baskets, but the Panthers had closed the gap and were now down 26-19 at the break.
The next quarter North made up more ground. They outscored Salem 10 to 7. One great sequence was started from a Sarah Whittaker steal. Racing down the court she spotted Rachael Heindl sprinting for the basket. She whipped the ball across the court and Heindl caught it in stride for a spectacular layup at full speed. They narrowed the gap down to 2 points late in the quarter forcing a Tiger timeout to get refocused.
In the last quarter the Tigers came out hot, making 3 baskets in a row. North gamely tried to claw their way back. Thompson and Mullins scored on succeeding possessions, but the clock began to become a factor. Facing a deficit in the waning minutes of the game, they resorted to fouling. The ball did not fall their way and North fell to Salem 43-36.
Coach Erin Friesthler, “Overall I am really proud of my girls, I think we played a really good game. We came out a little slow, a little sluggish on offense. We were a little timid, but once they warmed up I think we played a nice game. At half time I told them that there is nothing to be afraid of, we've been playing the same offense all season. To get their head in the game and play with intensity. And they played extremely hard with a lot of hustle.”
“I think that they may have overlooked us a little. We ended the season 11-10, but a lot of those losses were scores made at the last seconds of the game. We did go thru a stretch where the girls just weren't playing very well as a team. But we came back and I think a lot of teams under estimated us.”
On the seniors, “Megan Thompson has been starting since she was freshman. Brittany Mullins and Lindsey Bussard have been playing varsity since they were freshmen. Over the summer and at open gyms they have been there. They are so dedicated to the team. They really played well for us this season. We will really miss them next year.”
Scoring for the Panthers: Desiree Brown 2, Lindsey Bussard 1, Rachel Heindl 12, Brittany Mullins 8, Megan Thompson 11, Sarah Whittaker 2.