Times Staff Reporter
The North Clay middle school girls basketball teams took to the court Tuesday, drawing mixed results in a 7th-8th grade double header against Cascade.
The seventh-grade team improved to 7-0, winning a 20-9 slugfest. The Knights were led to victory by a suffocating defense, which allowed only three points in the final three quarters, and were a fluke jumper at the end of the third quarter away from a second half shut out.
The Knights needed the solid defense to overcome a struggling offense, which went more than 10-and-a-half minutes without scoring in the first half. The Knight finally found a groove in the third quarter, going on an 11-0 run, turning a one-point halftime deficit into a double-digit lead.
Mikayla Rowan led the Knights with 11 points, while Emily Conrad added three. Rowan made the game's most significant impact on the boards, as she recorded an astonishing 23 rebounds.
Despite their undeniably impressive start to the season, Knight coach Kevin Kumpf kept his expectations in check, focusing more on how he felt his team needed to improve.
"We're still searching for the best usage of our talent," Kumpf said. "This is a good group of girls, but our play still tends to be a bit mechanical at times."
A big problem for North Clay was their inability to hit free throws. All told, the Knights missed 24 foul shots on the night, which coach Jennifer Smith placed most of the blame of her team's defeat on.
"You miss 24 free throws in a game you lose by 13, that says it all," Smith said.
Brooke Berry led North Clay with 15 points, while Melissa Lummis added four.
The loss dropped the eighth-grade to 8-2 on the season. Things don't get any easier, as they jump right into a game against a Honey Creek team, which defeated them 43-11 the last time the two teams played. Despite that outcome and their disappointing loss Tuesday, Smith said she anticipated her team would play much better now knowing the Honey Creek team better.
Though she was optimistic for the rest of the season, Smith still suggested her team was in search of an identity. Since losing Lorrie LaTourette to injury early in the year, she says he club has been missing quality leadership it still needed to find if her girls desired taking the next step in the development of their play.
"We're looking for someone to step up and be a leader," Smith said. "We have a lot of girls who have the potential, we just need to see it on the court."
The seventh-grade returns to action Thursday, as they visit Honey Creek with tip-off at 5 p.m. On the same day, the eighth-grade hosts Honey Creek, with tip-off at 6 p.m.
At North Clay