—by Todd Thorson
R-S 50, Greene County 44
The Norse girls (5-8) lost by 14 points to Greene County on December 3, but that didn’t seem to matter this time around. The Norsemen’s confidence was beaming on Tuesday night (Jan. 14) in Story City, as they raced out to a 15-3 lead in the first quarter, despite GC (6-7) trying some unfamiliar defensive schemes on the home team.
"GC did some things defensively that we haven’t seen this year," said Coach Justin Morton. "They used a scramble type zone defense and tried to trap Natalie (Vance) at half court to (try and) get the ball out of her hands."
For the most part, the Norse did a good job of working through that unfamiliar tactic. By halftime, the R-S girls still led 27-18. The Norse inched ahead further by third quarter’s end, 38-27. GC made a run in the fourth to get back into the game, but the Norse held on to win by six, 50-44.
"We haven’t had to play many close games with the lead this season," commented Morton, "so it was a good test for us to see how we would react. For the most part, I thought the girls played with some composure and discipline at the end of the game. We didn’t have many turnovers and did a good job of getting the ball into our free throw shooters hands."
Three Norsemen scored in double figures, led by sophomore Alexa Whipple, who had a big game, scoring 15 points on 7 of 11 shots from the floor. Alexa also had nine rebounds in perhaps her best game of her young career. Natalie Vance and Brittany Hammes managed 12 and 10 points, respectively. Brooke Staker added seven points. Taylor Olson tallied four points, grabbed seven boards and also dished off four assists. And Lexi Crutchfield rounded out the scoring with two points. The Norse had one of their better night’s shooting, hitting 20 of 54 from the field for 37 percent. Kayla Mobley and Hannah Onken led GC with 11 points each.
"We did a good job of moving the ball on offense and finding the open girl," continued Morton. "We shot the ball really well again this game. It’s been fun to see how the girls are stepping up and playing with more confidence."
North Polk 67, R-S 54
The conference-leading Comets came into the game last Friday night (Jan. 17) in Story City ranked #10 in Class 3A. They had also won five out of their last six, and were sporting a 10-3 record. The Norse were not intimidated, however. They played their visitors tough throughout the contest, and went down fighting in the end. The Norsemen fell behind 25-11 in the first quarter, but pretty much played even with the Comets the rest of the way. By halftime it was 43-25 in favor of NP. The Comets couldn’t miss a shot in the first half, while the Norsemen struggled to score, especially in the opening quarter.
"We didn’t move the ball well and forced our shots," explained Morton. "Once we settled down and moved the ball around we were able to get better shots and put some points on the board."
The Norsemen stepped up their defensive effort in the second half. "We decided to just come out and get up in their faces on defense," stated Coach Morton.
Having to always be aware of the Comets’ twin stars, Megan and Miranda Murphy, the Norse had a big test from the start. "It proved to be a test for our team defense, as to how well we could pressure the ball and still rely on our help defense to make things tough on their top two scorers," said Morton. "This proved to be a pretty big challenge. We had people in the right spots a lot of times, but both of the twins were able to score."
Miranda and Megan led North Polk with 23 and 20 points, respectively. Natalie Vance led the Norsemen with 25 points. Brittany Hammes scored eight, Brooke Staker six, Taylor Olson five, Samantha Janvrin four and Kirsten Waline, Lexi Crutchfield and Bridget Concannon each posted two points. The Norse were a dismal 8 for 23 at the free throw line; a missed opportunity for perhaps 15 more points in a 13 point loss, 67-54. Fortunately, NP wasn’t much better at the charity stripe, hitting just 9 of 17.
"I was happy with our effort throughout the game," concluded Morton. "When North Polk came out on fire at the beginning of the game we could have given up, but our girls continued to fight, and actually outscored North Polk by one point in the final three quarters. Offensively, we played pretty well, once we started to move the ball around and get the shots we wanted."
The Norse girls outscored the Comets after halftime, 29-24, to keep the contest from being a runaway. In their first meeting on December 6 the Norsemen only scored 42 points; so this 12-point turnaround was a welcome sign and a moral victory of sorts.