Times Sports Editor
Stewing on a three-game losing streak including a pair of lopsided losses against stout, ranked competition, the Northview girls' basketball team bounced back to earn a victory in the team's conference opener against Brown County on Saturday evening.
The Knights rallied from an early deficit, held the Eagles star player, Kami Graber, to just nine points, then hit 10-of-14 free throws in the fourth quarter to take a 42-36 win.
Coming into the game, Northview coach Lu Anne Anderson knew that the key to the Knights' success would be limiting Graber's success.
"We knew coming in that Kami Graber had turned into a great basketball player and has made some great strides since last season," Anderson said. "She's tough to defend and I thought that Emily (Phillips) did a nice job and our game plan was to try and keep (Graber) contained as much as possible.
Graber came in averaging 21 points over the last two games and the Knights sent Phillips to match up with her. The Knights senior held Graber to just three points in the first half as Northview stayed close after trailing 11-6 after one quarter.
The Eagles turned to junior guard, Shelby Hundley to take the scoring load and the came through with nine points before halftime.
"Number 23 (Hundley) stepped up for them so we switched our defense and kind of keyed on both of them and I think that switching defenses kind of took them out of stride," Anderson said.
Kelsey Searing had her work cutout for her in the paint, battling for rebounds with a pair of Eagles that she gave up three or more inches in height to. Sasha Robinson, a 5'10 forward for Brown County had five rebounds in the second quarter and Alice Merryman, at 5'11, also had a reach advantage on Searing. That didn't seem to bother the Knights' senior who eight rebounds in the first half alone.
"We've been preaching all season long that we'll be shorter than most teams we play and rebounding is a big key and so far this year our girls have battled on the boards," Anderson said. "I was real proud of how we out rebounded them tonight."
Chelsey Sampson gave Northview a second period spark with a soft jumper and a pair of free throws as the Knights tied the game at 16-all headed into halftime.
The third quarter was just as even as a Phillips 3-pointer and a pair of free throws from Carlee Bell helped offset a three-point play from Graber and a put back basket from Karissa Lory. With the Eagles holding on to a 24-23 lead, Alyssa Conrad knocked home a 3-pointer before Robinson tied the score at 26-all heading into the fourth period.
In the final quarter, the Knights gained a small edge when Robinson was called for a technical foul, which also counted as her fifth foul of the game. Phillips sank a free throw to put the Knights ahead 32-30. Searing then went baseline for the Knights for a 34-31 lead.
With under two minutes remaining, Graber scored to narrow the gap to 36-35, but Phillips answered with a free throw with 1:10 remaining. The Eagles had a chance to tie the game as Emma Morgan went to the line, but she missed the front end of a one-and-one and the Knghts calmly began knocking down free throws.
Bell hit two with 42 seconds remaining and Graber missed one at the other end before Hundley hit one-of-two for the Eagles to narrow the gap to 39-36 with 25 seconds left. However, Searing hit two more and Bell added her eighth-point to seal the victory.
Afterwards, Anderson credited the defensive effort from her team in holding Graber to nine points and just eight shots from the field.
"I think that's well below her season average and that was our goal coming in," Anderson said. "One of our big keys this year is (winning) conference games and I think our four seniors especially would like to leave Northview with a title and this is game one."
The Knights (3-4 overall, 1-0 WIC) travel to West Vigo for a 6 p.m. game on Friday night.
Brown County (36)
Graber 3-8 3-8 9, Robinson 2-5 3-4 7, Hundley 5-13 1-2 12, Merryman 0-1 0-0 0, Lory 2-12 0-0 4, Miller 2-2 0-0 4, Howard 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 14-46 7-15 36.
Bell 0-4 8-12 8, Phillips 1-13 2-4 5, Sampson 3-7 2-2 8, Webster 0-11 0-0 0, Searing 3-5 4-4 10, Conrad 3-6 0-0 7, Carter 1-1 0-0 2, Sharton 1-2 0-0 2. Totals: 12-49 16-22 42.
3-point fieldgoals -- BC 1-11 (Morgan 0-3, Hundley 1-2, Lory 0-6), Nv 2-10 (Phillips 1-4, Webster 0-4, Sharton 0-4, Conrad 1-1). Total Rebounds -- BC 35 (Robinson 9, Merryman 6), Nv 39 (Searing 14, Bell 7). Total Fouls -- BC 18, Nv 15. Fouled out -- BC (Robinson). Turnovers -- BC 18, Nv 18.