—by Todd Thorson

Roland-Story put together a string of two impressive victories last week before running into a powerhouse in Class 4A’s #3 ranked Perry. on Saturday afternoon. Despite struggling on offense, the Norsemen stepped up and held off their rivals, the South Hamilton Hawks on Tuesday night (Jan. 9) in Story City. Then on Friday night, the Norse turned in their best shooting performance in years by blitzing CMB at Maxwell. Unfortunately, Perry quickly burst the R-S girls’ bubble less than 24 hours later. The 2-1 week put the Norsemen’s record at 4-7.

R-S 38, South Hamilton 25

Despite another flat offensive performance, the Norsemen used their strong defense to hold off South Hamilton (1-10) 38-25 in Story City last Tuesday. For one of the first times this season scoring leader Natalie Vance found herself in foul trouble, which prompted the rest of the R-S lineup to step up their game.

Brittany Hammes and Brooke Staker picked up the slack, scoring 13 and 11 points, respectively. Vance led the Norse with 15 points, even though she spent a considerable amount of time on the bench. Taylor Olson added six points. Though Kirsten Waline didn’t score, she took over the point guard position in Natalie’s absence and did a fine job. It is a role she’ll have to get used to playing all the time come next season. Kaitlin Fisher led South Hamilton with 10 points.

"I was proud of how several girls stepped up when Natalie got into foul trouble," said Coach Justin Morton. "The girls could have panicked when Natalie wasn’t in, but they kept their composure and continued to compete. We were able to put some points on the board during that time, which was big."

The Norse jumped out to an 11-5 lead at the quarter break, and held a 16-9 advantage at intermission, following a low scoring second period. The Hawks hung tough in the third, following halftime, as the Norse headed into the final period still holding a 25-20 lead. The R-S girls put the game away in the fourth quarter to win by 14, 39-25.

Both teams shot poorly, the Norse hitting 14 of 53 from the field for 26 percent. The Hawks were only 11 for 41 for 27 percent. R-S put up 22 three pointers in the game and made only three. Free throws were a difference maker, as the Norse hit 14 of 20, while SH was only 3 of 14; an 11 point differential.

"I thought we came out flat in this game," stated Morton. "We had a pretty good idea of what South Hamilton was going to do and we struggled the entire game to execute on offense."

Coach Morton also praised Staker and Hammes for playing so well when Vance went to the bench.

"We haven’t had to play without Natalie much this year, " he said, "and I thought Brooke and Brittany stepped up in the fourth quarter and did some great things to help us keep the lead."

R-S 71 CMB 34

Coach Justin Morton was so impressed with his team’s performance against CMB Friday night in Maxwell that he said it was the best shooting performance at the high school level that he has seen in his entire coaching career. "It was easily the best shooting performance we’ve had in the four years that I’ve coached here (at Roland-Story)," he said.

The Norse girls shot 54 percent from the floor on 26 of 48. What was even more impressive was the fact the Norsemen were 11 of 18 from three point range; that’s 61 percent from beyond the arc! That’s truly an impressive feat! The 11 threes tied for second all time in three pointers made.

Natalie Vance "was on fire" for the Norse, scoring 31 points. She didn’t miss her first shot until half way through the third period. By game’s end she had hit 10 of 15 field goal - a 67 percent clip - and was also perfect at the free throw line (6 for 6). It was one of the best all-around performances in Roland-Story history.

Brooke Staker and Brittany Hammes also had great shooting performances for the Norse. Hammes was 4 of 7 from the field and 3 for 5 from beyond the three point line; good for 11 points. Staker went 4 of 5 from the floor and hit 3 of 3 three pointers for 11 points as well. Brittany also finished with 10 rebounds to record a double-double. Lexi Crutchfield added six points, and Alexa Whipple posted five points. Taylor Olson, Samantha Janvrin and Kirsten Waline each had two points.

Abbie Haupert led CMB (4-9) with eight points, after coming into the game averaging a double-double. It was the second time this season that the Norsemen had held her in check. The Raiders were also riding a four-game winning streak before running into the Norse girls.

The Norse led from start to finish, piling up a 24-6 lead at the end of the first quarter. By halftime it was 39-18 in favor of the Norsemen. A 19-9 run in the third period put the game away, as R-S led 58-27 with eight minutes to play. Final score: 71-34. Roland-Story limited the Raiders to 26 percent shooting on 11 of 43 shots. CMB was only 2 for 12 at the foul line as well.

"Probably the biggest thing I was happy with in this game was our focus before the game, and on the court," commented Morton. "After the South Hamilton game I was pretty disappointed with our lack of focus and effort, so we worked on that leading into the CMB game. The girls did a great job of getting themselves mentally prepared for the game. They were focused the entire game and did a great job of playing with confidence and carrying out the game plan at both ends of the floor. Overall, I was extremely happy and pleased with this game. It was the most complete game we’ve played at both ends of the floor this season."

Perry 58 R-S 24

The Norse girls knew it was going to be tough. Coming off a splendid performance the night before, the Norsemen ran into the #3 ranked 4A Perry girls on Saturday afternoon on the road. The result was a forgettable 58-24 loss.

Sporting two all-state players in Claire Marburger and Maggie Lowe, the Perry duo led the home team with 26 and 11 points, respectively. Roland-Story was led by Natalie Vance with nine points. Alexa Whipple and Taylor Olson each had four points. Brittany Hammes added three points and Samantha Janvrin and Brooke Staker each posted two points.

The Norse struggled with their zone defense in the first quarter, falling behind quickly 23-8, as Perry put the ball in their best players’ hands on a regular basis. For the remainder of the game the Norsemen switched to a man-to-man defense and did a much better job defensively. The offense, however, failed to find any rhythm.

With Perry’s aggressive man defense, the Norse found themselves down 37-12 by halftime. In the second half the Norsemen did a better job of executing their offense and moving the ball, which enabled some better looks. But Perry still pulled away, outscoring the Norse 16-6 in the third quarter, and then winning easily by 34, 58-24.

"I was proud of the girls for competing the entire game," concluded Coach Morton. "With the margin that we were behind, the girls could have folded and quit at any time. They fought the entire game and I felt we improved in several areas on both offense and defense. The next step is to transfer what we improved on in this game into our conference schedule this week."

Roland-Story will face three HOIAC foes in four days this week, hosting Greene County last night (Tuesday), traveling to Colfax-Mingo on Thursday, and then returning home for a tilt with North Polk on Friday night.