—by Todd Thorson

The Roland-Story girls hung with the 3A #10 Nevada Cubs (6-2) for half of the game, but a slow start to begin the contest, as well as a sluggish third quarter, cost the Norse 60-37 on Saturday afternoon (Jan. 4) in Story City. A 17-7 Nevada lead at the quarter break set the tone for the rest of the ball game, as the home team couldn’t climb back into it. By halftime it was still only a 10 point margin at 28-18, despite the R-S girls shooting just 20 percent and committing 16 turnovers. The third quarter was the nail in the coffin, however, as Nevada out-scored the Norsemen 16-4 to take a commanding 44-22 lead. The game ended with a 23-point victory for the visiting Cubs, 60-37.

The Norse could have just folded in the fourth period, but they played the Cubs tough, getting outscored by only one point, 16-15. "This is a perfect example of, if we go out and control what we can control we can play with anyone," said Coach Justin Morton.

Taylor Olson had a career game, recording a double-double with a career high in both points (17) and rebounds (11). Natalie Vance had 12 points, and Alexa Whipple came in with five. Both Taylor and Alexa continue to play at a very high level as of late, and that’s a welcome sign in the eyes of Coach Morton. Especially as he continues to look for more offense from a team that has relied mostly on Natalie Vance’s scoring punch.

"We need to continue to find a way to get Taylor and Alexa the ball more on offense," Morton stated. "A lot of the shots they’re getting right now are off of offensive rebounds and hustle plays."

Alli Fey led Nevada with 20 points. Jessica Helton and Kati Cassabaum each had 10 for the Cubs.

The Norse were dead even with the Cubs in the rebounding department at 31-31. Whipple grabbed eight boards, as she and Olson (11) were a force on the glass. Vance also swiped five steals. The Norse shot only 22 percent from the field on 11 of 49 shots, while the Cubs were 20 for 56 for 36 percent. At the free throw line, R-S hit 13 of 21 and Nevada was 11 for 16. A total of 26 turnovers in the game also proved too costly for the Norsemen to overcome.

"Our effort was pretty good throughout the game," commented Morton. "We still had spurts when we had letdowns. When you do that against a team like Nevada they pounce on you, and that’s exactly what happened. When we went in at halftime we felt like we were in the game. We thought if we could minimize our turnovers in the second half, and get better shots, we could make a run and have a chance to compete for the win. (However) when Nevada came out in the second half they turned up their defensive intensity and we didn’t respond. We let Nevada’s effort dictate our effort and attitude."

The Norse girls are now 2-6 overall and will continue to press on, and, in the process, hopefully will find ways to diminish their turnovers and get better shot selections. Coach Morton will also continue scouting his opponents like he always does, and offering his girls a new motivating quote to ponder before each game. This game’s quote was: "Challenges can be stepping stones or stumbling blocks. It’s just a matter of how you view them."

"For the most part I felt like this game was a stepping stone for us going into the second half of the season, " Morton concluded. "With more consistency with our attitude, effort and communication, and with our continued work with finding ways to score on offense, we should continue to improve and have more success through the second half of the season."