OSSIAN – Sectionals are just around the corner, and every girls basketball team could use a confidence boost before the state tournament kicks off.
Scoring 50 points in one half against Jay County, as Norwell did in a 79-44 victory Tuesday night, will do the trick.
“I really liked how we played at both ends,” Norwell coach Eric Thornton said. “We shot the ball well tonight, but that was a result of our good ball movement. And I thought we played really well defensively, too.”
Norwell junior Kaylee Fuelling hit a 3-pointer on the Knights' first possession, which was answered with a jumper by Patriots sophomore forward Madison Dirksen.
But from there, it was all Norwell. The Knights (16-4, 4-1 ACAC) looked deserving of being the No. 4 team in Class 3A as they opened a 12-2 lead, stretched it to 19-6, and then to 25-10 by the end of the first quarter. They kept up the pace in the second quarter and were leading comfortably 50-22 at halftime.
“We came out really strong, like we should, and we finished the game strong, too,” junior Maiah Shelton said. “We were hitting our shots, we were playing hard defense and were being a team all-around.”
The Knights repeatedly found Shelton wide open under the basket for easy layups, and each time she acknowledged the assist with a point toward her teammate as she raced back down the court. Other times, Shelton drove the lane and took it to the basket herself. She finished with a game-high 20 points, 16 of them scored in the first half. The Patriots' defense could offer little resistance.
“That's an old Dean Smith thing from North Carolina,” Thornton said of the way his players point to their teammate on the court after a nice play. “That's fun, that's fun to see our kids do that and celebrate somebody else's basket or somebody else's pass, those types of things.”
Breann Barger, the Knights' lone senior, converted multiple steals into easy layups. She finished with 13 points and seven rebounds, all in the first three quarters.
Fuelling and junior Lauren Bales each hit three 3-pointers, including one by Bales nearly from half court.
Junior Hailey Henschen scored 13 for the Knights, most on second-chance shots or on free throws.
“Over the years, that's been something that's a trademark of our program, is good balance,” Thornton said.
In the first three quarters, before the reserves largely took over, the Knights shot 26-41 (63.4%), including 10 of 20 from 3. The Patriots (11-8, 4-1 ACAC) showed flashes of competitiveness but couldn't shoot consistently or handle all of Norwell's scoring threats.