While the game went down to the wire, North Clay’s 61-51 win over Brownstown/St. Elmo was powered by a big first quarter.
The Lady Cardinals rode an aggressive full-court press defense to a number of turnovers, fast breaks and easy layups as they exploded for 25 points out of the gate in the first quarter.
Leading 25-13 heading into the second, the Cardinals would keep the lead between 12 and 16 points for much of the second quarter. A Carsan Bible two gave them a 40-25 lead with under a minute left in the half.
A quick 5-0 run by Bethany Oberlink and a Kyrstyn Fitch three made it 40-30 at the half.
Brownstown would continue to the cut the deficit throughout the rest of the game as North Clay pulled back its press.
“I started subbing a little bit,” said North Clay coach Curtis Thompson. “Just wanted to make sure we stayed out of foul trouble, and we should have been able to take care of them in our half court defense.”
Meanwhile, the Bombers turned to the press defensively to slow down the Cardinals’ offense, and things bogged down for North Clay as they moved to their half-court offense.
North Clay extended its lead to 46-32 on a jumper by Carleigh Yeager midway through the third, but Brownstown turned it up a notch and ended the half on a 12-5 run to cut the lead to 51-44 entering the fourth quarter.
Two early free throws by Molly Hill made it 51-46, and the Cardinals were held scoreless for nearly five minutes between the third and fourth quarters.
Brownstown cut the lead to four two times behind Oberlink, but never got any closer.
For Brownstown, the problem all season has been about getting out to a good start, and that plagued them again Thursday.
“They’re starting slow right now, but we’re going to try some things in our next game to get out faster,” said Brownstown coach Brian Pruett. “We gotta find a way to start the game. The intensity is there, but it doesn’t come out until we’re down 15 and they’re ticked off.”
Thompson was impressed by the Bombers’ tenacity and ability to find ways to stay in the game in the face of adversity.
“They played very well, great physical defense,” he said. “They were getting good looks off our man defense, they made us go back to the 2-3 zone.”
Kortney Stanfield led all scorers with 17 points for North Clay, while Morgan Walker had 15 points and Bible added 10 points off the bench.
Oberlink had 16 to top the Lady Bombers, while Audriana Pruett had nine points and Hill had eight points of her own.
It was the first game since the holidays for Brownstown, who showed some signs of rust early, Pruett said.
“I think we forgot how to break the press,” he said. “We’re very young, we’re still learning the game.”
As for the Cardinals, who held off a furious rally as their own offense struggled, Thompson was still pleased with North Clay’s effort and how they held on to a win.
“We did a lot of things right, making free throws, taking care of the basketball (late),” he said.
Brownstown’s next game is at Altamont next Thursday night.
The Lady Cardinals improve to 9-7 and 3-0 in the NTC. They host Cowden-Herrick/Beecher City Monday night.
North Clay 61, Brownstown 51
North Clay 25 15 11 10 61
Brownstown 13 17 14 7 51
North Clay - Yeager 2, M. Stanfield 2, Bible 10, Smith 6, Walker 15, K. Stanfield 17, Wyatt 9
Brownstown - Pruett 9, Austin 7, Fitch 7, Hill 8, Bone 4, Oberlink 16