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The Journal Gazette

Friday, January 06, 2017 7:04 pm

Huntington North girls come through in clutch

Chris Goff | The Journal Gazette

HUNTINGTON — In crunch time, Huntington North girls basketball coach Heidi Lawson places trust in all of her players.

On Friday night, junior forward Larissa Johnson repaid that faith with a game-winning basket as the Vikings beat East Noble 40-37 at North Arena in what shaped up as a pivotal Northeast Eight showdown.

"I feel confident with any of the girls, really," Lawson said. "That is no doubt. It's just whether the play works and they get open."

With the score tied at 37, junior guard Hollyn Anderson dribbled behind her back to get a step on her defender and drove into the lane before making a precision bounce pass to the 5-foot-8 Johnson, who with 19 seconds left, made a short jumper over the outstretched arms of 5-10 East Noble center Kara Kline.

"It feels really great knowing I can help out my team," said Johnson, who finished with six points.

Following Johnson's heroics, Corie Jones, who led East Noble with 15 points and seven rebounds, missed a tying jumper off the front rim, all but sealing the Knights' fourth consecutive defeat, a stretch that has come away from home.

The Vikings (9-5, 3-0) needed every contribution they could muster to take care of the scrappy Knights (10-9, 2-2).

"This was going to be a huge game for us, especially being home," Lawson said. "It's a good win."

Neither side led by more than six in a defensive game that featured eight ties and nine lead changes. Huntington North shot 42 percent from the field and 11 of 21 from the foul line.

East Noble coach DeAnn Booth used a timeout after her team scored on a fast break to lead 7-3 late in the first period, and that score held entering the second, but the Vikings soon had a lot more success offensively.

Karmen Koch (15 points) got going in the second quarter and helped pulled the hosts within 16-13 at halftime.

Koch’s layup with 5:47 left in the third tied the game at 18, and she made the free throw to convert a three-point play as the Vikings at last went ahead. Rileigh Johnson (four points, six rebounds) finished an acrobatic fast-break layup that gave them another lead, 21-20.

Huntington North credited a zone defense for turning the tide.

"The coaching staff changed the defense, and that kind of threw them," Lawson said. "We're not the best 2-3 zone team. I'm more of a man-to-man kind of girl, and the girls did a nice job of stepping up. They still got some shots but not as many inside the lane."

It was 25-25 entering the fourth quarter, setting up a dramatic finish.

"Pretty exciting," Johnson said. "We knew East Noble was going to be tough, and we have a goal to win conference."