—by Todd Thorson

It wasn’t pretty, but the Roland-Story Norsemen girls and the Gilbert Tigers staged a defensive "stalemate" for the most part last Tuesday night (Dec. 17) in Gilbert. With Coach Justin Morton absent due to illness, assistant coach Jason Donohue took the reins as the Norse fell just short in a low-scoring affair, 29-28. The Norse almost stole the game down the stretch, thanks to some missed free throws by the Tigers. With an opportunity to win the game in the final 10 seconds, the Norsemen’s final attempt went awry as the Tigers held on for the victory.

Both teams shot poorly for the game; the Norse hitting only 9 of 45 shots from the floor for 20 percent, while the Tigers weren’t much better at 25 percent on 10 of 40.

With the Norse leading 19-15 at halftime, the Tigers came out in the third quarter and clamped down on the visiting Norsemen. Gilbert out-scored the Norse girls 10-0 in the third period to take a 25-19 advantage into the fourth quarter.

Both teams continued to play stellar defense through to the end, with the Norsemen finally breaking their scoring drought a minute into the final frame. They had also gone cold for over a six minute period in the second quarter as well. The Norse were able to get the shots they wanted for the most part all evening, but they just wouldn’t fall.

Natalie Vance led the Norse with 13 points. Lexi Crutchfield added six, while Brittany Hammes posted five. Brooke Staker added three points, and Taylor Olson pitched in a free throw. Taylor Broshar and Katie Reed led Gilbert with six points apiece. Hilary Mosiman, Jane Brown and Paige Hoiberg each scored five points. Gilbert also out-rebounded the Norse 29-25, with Lexi grabbing eight and Taylor hauling down six rebounds for the Norsemen.

Vance, who is averaging over 16 points a game thus far this season, was constantly hounded by a box-and-one defensive scheme by the Tigers. Unfortunately, the rest of the Norse offense was unable to pick up the slack when Natalie became "frustrated" by the Tigers’ tactics.

"We need the (other) girls to step up and score when other teams are concentrating on Natalie," said Coach Justin Morton, who had to endure this rivalry game from afar. "Our focus over break is going to be on shooting and scoring. We’re also going to concentrate on getting more opportunities to score out of transition."

The defense, however, continues to shine, much like it has all season. Coach Morton was pleased, and has been pleased most of the season, at the solid effort put forth on defense game in and game out.

With the Tigers missing on two one-and-one situations in the closing minute of the game, and the Norse scoring four consecutive points to pull to within one in the final seconds, the Norsemen girls nearly pulled out the victory. But a dish off from Natalie Vance down low in the final 10 seconds resulted in a missed open shot that just wouldn’t fall.

The Tigers improved to 7-2 following a Friday night victory over South Hamilton, while the Norse fell to 2-5 after the Gilbert loss. Friday night’s contest at Colfax-Mingo was cancelled due to inclement weather. Play for the Norse girls will resume on Saturday, Jan. 4 at home against Nevada.