—by Todd Thorson
The weather continued to disrupt the sports schedule again last week, as the Norsemen basketball teams were forced to postpone two contests. One, however, was due to a water main break, technically not a weather situation, but more than likely indirectly caused by the incessant cold spell that has gripped the area for seemingly the entire winter. On Monday, the Norse girls and boys traveled to Colfax for a makeup game with the Tigerhawks, just three days after hosting them in Story City. The result was a sweep, 68-47 in the girls’ game and 66-34 in favor of the Norse boys. Tuesday night the Norsemen were supposed to go to Nevada, but bad weather postponed that matchup to Saturday afternoon. The result four days later was a split, the girls losing 50-34 and the boys winning 53-47. Friday night’s contest at Jewell against South Hamilton was postponed to this Monday (Feb. 10) due to a water main break. And the Colo-Nesco match ups originally scheduled to precede the Nevada contests at Colo were postponed; the J.V./Varsity girls playing yesterday (Tuesday, Feb. 11) and the J.V./Varsity boys taking on the Royals Friday night (Feb. 14).
R-S 68, Colfax-Mingo 47
The Roland-Story girls faced Colfax-Mingo for the second time in three days, and this time around it was a little bit closer than the previous 43 point victory. Taking on the Tigerhawks in Colfax last Monday night (Feb. 3), the home team came out with a triangle and two defensive set in order to try and contain top Norse scorer Natalie Vance. That meant their defenders clogging the lane, with two girls guarding Natalie out on the perimeter. With the lane packed in pretty good, that freed up the other R-S guards to try and pick up the slack while Natalie was "occupied".
Brooke Staker and Brittany Hammes did just that, as they were up to challenge, combining for 30 points on 7 of 18 from three point range. Brooke and Brittany each finished with 15 points to go along with Natalie’s 19 points.
"We actually scored more points against C-M in this game than we did the Friday before," mentioned Coach Justin Morton. "And Natalie had more points in this game, with two defenders on her, than she did against the same team (three days before)."
The difference in the two games was the fact the Norsemen’s defense was a little sluggish in this contest. On Friday (Jan. 31), R-S held the Tigerhawks to 24 points on 21 percent shooting. This time C-M took 33 more shot attempts and shot 31 percent from the field to score their 47 points.
The Norsemen (9-9) jumped out to a 16-6 lead in the first quarter, but C-M cut into that margin a bit by halftime, trailing by only eight 24-16. The pesky Tigerhawks (1-17) would not go away as the third period unfolded. At one point C-M cut the R-S lead to four before the final period began. But the fourth quarter belonged to the Norsemen, as they finally began to click, pulling away with a 26-12 outburst in the final frame to win by 21.
Coach Morton saw the difference in the game come down to the mindset of his team. "We let the fact that we had just easily beaten this team three days earlier directly effect our attitude and effort coming into this game," he said. "As a team we need to improve on always playing at our highest level, no matter the competition."
Taylor Olson and Lexi Crutchfield rounded out the R-S scoring with nine and seven points, respectively. And Traci Marienau added three points. The Norse shot 44 percent from the floor on 24 of 54. R-S also hit 11 of 17 free throws. Jessica Albright led C-M with 10 points.
"I was proud of the girls for not folding when the game got close," concluded Morton. "We could have easily tightened up and just given up, but we started to play the way we’re capable of playing, and were able to pull out the victory. I think the girls took a big lesson from this game that we can’t just show up and play without having the right mindset. If we have the right mindset coming into the game and strive to play at our highest level we can play with anyone."
Nevada 50, R-S 34
Coach Morton thought that "mindset" was on the right track against Nevada Saturday afternoon (Feb. 8) in Story City, especially in the first half. The Norsemen hung tough with the 16-4 Cubs, performing much better than their previous meeting - a 60-37 loss on January 4.
Nevada ran a 1-2-2 3/4 trap on the Norse, and the R-S girls did pretty well breaking it up. The Norsemen didn’t turn the ball over even once against the trap, which forced the Cubs to alter their course. Meanwhile, the Norsemen were running an effective man offense, moving the ball around well and attacking the basket. Their shot selection was there also for R-S in the first half, as they led 11-10 at the quarter break and trailed by only two at halftime 26-24.
The close score was indication of the Norsemen’s "first shot" defense, especially in the first half. "Although we had some lapses at times, for the most part we made Nevada work for nearly every first shot they took," commented Morton. "We did give up a lot of offensive rebounds that led to several Nevada second chance points (however)."
The Norse also struggled with fouls in the first half, as Nevada made it to the free throw line quite often. The Cubs actually made more free throws than they did field goals. In the end, Nevada was 17 for 21 at the foul line, while the Norse were 6 of 9.
Nevada’s defense stepped up in the second half, as they slowly pulled away, leading 36-28 at the end of the third quarter, and then winning by 16, 50-34. The Norse, however, hung around and never let the game get too far away from them.
"Going into the second half we were only down two points, and feeling pretty good," stated Morton. "If we could have improved our defensive rebounding and cut down on fouling I thought we’d have a shot in the second half. But Nevada’s defense in the second half proved to be too much."
Natalie Vance led the Norse with 14 points. Taylor Olson posted six points, followed by Alexa Whipple with five points, Brittany Hammes had four, Brooke Staker scored three points and Kirsten Waline added two. The Norse shot only 24 percent from the field (13 for 54), their poorest shooting performance since early in the season. It was Nevada’s 2-3 match-up zone that caused the Norsemen much of their problems. The Cubs’ athletic prowess and long reach limited the R-S girls’ looks on the perimeter. The Norse were able to get a few good looks inside on occasion, but Katie Cassabaum, the Cubs’ strong post, blocked several shots and made it tough-going in the lane for the Norsemen.
"I think there are a lot of things that we can take from this game," concluded Morton. "We went out and competed against the top team in the conference for two quarters. We need to focus on competing at our highest level for four full quarters. Once we get to a point where we can do that we’ll be able to compete with teams like Nevada for the entire game."
R-S 66, Colfax-Mingo 34
The Norse boys jumped out to a fast start at Colfax last Monday night (Feb. 3) against the Colfax-Mingo Tigerhawks, leading at the first quarter break 22-4. It was nearly identical to the first period output (25-4) from three days earlier when the Norsemen faced this same C-M squad in Story City. The Norse then stretched the lead to 44-14 by halftime. Using a well balanced attack, nine different Norsemen scored in the opening half.
The third quarter saw the pace subside a bit when both teams found it more difficult to score. At the end of the third, R-S still led 55-20. The scoring picked up in the final frame, with the Norse winning easily, 66-36. In the end, all 14 Norsemen in uniform scored.
As of late, the Norsemen (10-7) have been impressive with their shooting touch. They connected on 8 of 19 three pointers and also hit 20 of 25 from the free throw line.
Zach Hovick led the Norsemen with 13 points. Ben Clark had nine points, followed by John Barclay with eight. Ben also had six rebounds and five assists. Adam Shorkey and Tyler Hovick each had five points. Kane Hassebrock and Sam Miller scored four points apiece. Nick Ahrens, Alex Urbanek, Colin Greene and Neil Upadhyay all had three points. And Ross Barclay, Jerald Fritz and Ben Crisman all had two points each. Fritz also came away with six rebounds as well. The Norse were 19 for 42 from the floor. C-M was about the same, hitting 15 for 47. But there was an 18 point discrepancy at the foul line, with R-S outscoring the Tigerhawks 20-2. C-M remains winless this season at 0-17.
"It was great to see our guys come out with intensity to start the game," said Coach Darrin Berggren. "It is always hard to play an opponent two times in such a short time span, especially when the first game was lopsided. I thought our guys did a great job coming in focused and ready tonight, and the fast start gave us a chance to really showcase some of our depth. We did a great job of turning up the intensity in the first half, and then finding the open man on the offensive end."
R-S 53, Nevada 47
The Roland-Story boys (11-7) won their fifth game in a row last Saturday afternoon (Feb. 8) at Nevada (4-13), defeating the Cubs 53-47. "The first half was a very slow paced game," said Coach Berggren, "and our defense really made it difficult for the Cubs to get a clean look at the basket." At the quarter break, R-S was in the lead 12-7, and by halftime the lead was 11 at 24-13.
The second half saw the pace pick up, as well as the scoring. By the end of the third period, the Norse still couldn’t shake the Cubs, leading by 10 at 36-26. The Norsemen were able to stretch the lead to 17, but Nevada just wouldn’t fold. Nevada’s Cole Gidel hit four three pointers in the second half to keep his team in it, including hitting one with just over a minute to play to cut the R-S lead to five. But that would be as close as the home team would get. The Norse finished the game by hitting their free throws and getting some key stops to win by six, 53-47.
Zach Hovick led the way for R-S with 24 points. Adam Shorkey had a good offensive night, scoring 14 on 7 of 10 from the field. Nick Ahrens had one of his better games of the season, posting six points. Ben Clark had four points, six assists and three steals, and now leads the conference in the latter two categories. John Barclay added two points, as did Sam Miller. And Alex Urbanek hit a free throw. R-S was 20 of 42 from the floor, and hit 12 of 20 free throws.
"This was a good win to get," stated Coach Berggren."It is always tough to win on the road, and especially on a Saturday afternoon. Our guys did a great job of stepping up to every challenge they were presented with today. (The) shots weren’t falling like they had in our previous four games, but we found a way to win on the defensive end. Hopefully we can continue our momentum the last week of the regular season, as we take on three teams with a combined 45-13 record. This will present a great opportunity for us heading into district play."
The Norse were at Jewell Monday night (Feb. 10) to take on the Hawks of South Hamilton. CMB came to town last night (Tuesday), followed by Senior Night coming up on Friday night (Feb. 14) against Colo-Nesco. R-S will open 2A District play on Thursday, Feb. 20 against the Woodward Academy/Clarion-Goldfield winner at Jewell beginning at 6:30 p.m.