—by Todd Thorson

After an impressive opening season win over CMB the week before, the Norse girls returned from Thanksgiving break a little rusty. The fact they ran into some rather tough opposition on three separate occasions in five days didn’t make it any easier.

In the first game last week against Greene County on Tuesday (Dec. 3) in Jefferson the R-S girls struggled with their shooting. On Friday night (Dec. 6) in Alleman they ran into the 3A 10th ranked North Polk Comets and, despite giving a solid effort, fell by 17. And on Saturday afternoon (Dec. 7) at Pella, the Norse ran into some match up problems, as the stronger and bigger Pella Christian girls handled the Norsemen by 12.

The three losses dropped the Norse to 1-3 and 0-2 in the HOIAC.

Coach Justin Morton was generally pleased with the Norsemen’s efforts all week, but they still need to work on their consistency and their ability to make adjustments. "We’ll continue to improve as long as we keep our ‘can do’ attitude and continue to fight," he said.

Greene County 46, R-S 32

The Norse girls really struggled with their shooting against Greene County last Tuesday in Jefferson. The Norsemen hit only 25 percent of their shots, on 12 of 48 from the floor. They were also only 2 of 17 from three point range (a rather poor 17 percent).

"It’s hard to compete in many games shooting that poorly," commented Morton. "Greene County did a good job of taking away our penetration and we settled for too many outside jumpers."

Natalie Vance was the only R-S player in double figures, scoring 12 to lead the way. Taylor Olson added eight points. Alexa Whipple posted six points. Lexi Crutchfield came in with four, and Brittany Hammes pitched in two points. Lexi also had three steals. Kayla Mobley led GC with an 18 point performance.

With Greene County also shooting poorly (they hit only 31 percent from the field) there were plenty of rebounds to be had. The Norse hung tough with the GC girls for a while, but the home team ended up with a 46-33 edge on the boards. R-S also turned the ball over 17 times, which didn’t help matters.

"We need to develop a better mentality of getting to the basket and playing more from the inside out," continued Morton. "We had moments when we would make a run to get back into the game. But then a defensive or mental breakdown would take away our momentum."

Coach Morton also said the girls need to play with more intensity on defense, which will help when match up problems do occur. Their reaction time needs to be quicker as well, so that adjustments can be made on how their opponents are scoring. "While we never gave up, I never really felt like we were in this game," he concluded.

North Polk 59, R-S 42

Roland-Story gave forth a strong effort against the 10th ranked Comets on Friday night in Alleman. It was the first time this season that Norsemen Coach Justin Morton felt like the R-S girls played the "Norsemen Way".

The Norse didn’t seem to let the ranked Comets, and the fact they have two first team all-conference players, affect their intensity level and their determination.

The first half was close throughout, with the Norsemen holding a 13-10 lead at the quarter break. By halftime, the game was all knotted at 26-26.

But in the second half the Comets’ two stars began to take over. A 14-5 advantage by the Comets gave the home team a 40-31 lead, heading into the final frame. North Polk would slowly pull away in the fourth quarter to win by 17, 59-42.

Natalie Vance had a spectacular game, pouring in 25 points. Coach Morton said it was perhaps Natalie’s best, all-around, offensive game in her four years as a member of the Norsemen squad.

"She really came in with the mindset that she was going to get to the basket," Morton added. "That really helped to free up her outside game and allowed her to get some more open looks."

Unfortunately, nobody else scored in double figures for the Norsemen. Brooke Staker had six points. Taylor Olson tallied four points. Kirsten Waline came in with three points, and Lexi Crutchfield and Brittany Hammes each added two points. Olson also hauled down eight boards, while Hammes grabbed six and Vance took down five. Vance also had four steals. Miranda Murphy ended up with 29 points for the Comets.

R-S shot poorly once again, hitting just 12 of 45 shots from the floor for 27 percent. The Comets too were not much better, hitting 20 of 62 for 32 percent. NP also out-rebounded the Norse 44-28.

"I thought collectively, as a team, this was by far our best defensive effort of the season," stated Morton. "Offensively, we set a goal of getting to the free throw line 20 times for the game. We were able to shoot 13 free throws in the first half and actually got their two best players in foul trouble. (But) in the second half they started to pack in the lane and we lost some of our aggressiveness. We became more apprehensive to attack the basket and hesitated to shoot the open shot from the outside."

The Norse ended up 14 for 21 from the free throw line, while the Comets were slightly better at 17 for 21. Vance was 7 of 9 from the line to go along with her seven field goals - four of which were three pointers.

"Overall, I was very pleased with the effort," concluded Coach Morton. "We knew going into the game it would be a tough task to get the win, but we fought the entire game and really took several things from the game that we can build on the rest of the season."

Pella Christian 48, R-S 36

The R-S girls lacked energy and intensity at times against Pella Christian on Saturday afternoon (Dec. 7) in Pella, as the home team was eventually too strong for the Norse to overcome. The final score was 48-36 in favor of PC.

Roland-Story did manage to play well in the first half, even leading 15-13 at the quarter break. By halftime, however, Pella Christian had assumed a 30-25 lead. Both teams struggled to score in the second half, as the Norse could only tally 11 points in the third and fourth quarters combined. PC was a little better with 18 points (nine in each frame) to win by 12.

Pella Christian worked hard to take R-S leading scorer Natalie Vance out of her game. Routinely they put two girls on Natalie whenever she handled the ball, utilizing a 2-3 zone in the process. Their size advantage also began to take its toll in the lane, preventing the Norse from putting points on the board.

Vance ended up with 16 points to lead the Norse scoring. Alexa Whipple posted seven points. Brittany Hammes scored six. Brooke Staker added three points, and Taylor Olson and Kirsten Waline each tallied two points. Whipple also hauled down 13 rebounds, while Olson grabbed eight.

Again, the Norse struggled with their shooting, going 12 of 43 from the floor for 27 percent. PC was 17 of 43 from the field for 39 percent. R-S also struggled at the free throw line, hitting just 6 of 15. Pella Christian was 10 of 19 from the charity stripe.

"We need to play with more energy," commented Morton. "We played with energy in spurts, but not consistently enough to be effective. Our inconsistency and ability to adjust on offense really needs to improve. Overall, I thought it was a game that could have been much closer."