Times Staff Reporter
The North Clay girls' basketball teams took to the court Tuesday, earning a split with the Patriots of Owen Valley.
The undefeated seventh-grade squad ran their record to 21-0, taking a 48-29 win. After allowing Owen Valley to grab a 10-7 lead following an 8-0 run, the Knights regained control of the game and never let up, going on a 13-0 run of their own, which helped them build a 25-14 lead by halftime.
Coach Kevin Kumpf said he felt his team's early struggles were a result of the Patriot's man-to-man defensive scheme, which his girls hadn't seen in weeks. Once they adjusted, Kumpf said he got the effort he's grown to expect from his players.
"We just got in a situation where we started chipping away," Kumpf said. "Once we got going, we played pretty well."
Mikayla Rowan led North Clay offensively and defensively, scoring 14 points, and pulling down 11 rebounds. Whitney Halfhill and Emily Conrad each added eight points, while Abbey Timberman added nine rebounds.
With one game left in what has thus far been a perfect season, Kumpf said he would be lying if he said he wasn't thinking about how disappointing it would be to go all the way through only to lose the last game. However, he also stressed he was choosing to focus more on how terrific an experience it had been coaching what he called 'a great group of girls.'
"I always look at things from a game-by-game basis," Kumpf said. "Obviously you don't want to go all year only to lose for the first time in your last game, but no matter what happens, this has been a great season."
After scoring the first two points of the game, North Clay could only watch as the Patriots scored the next 15, as they built up a commanding 25-10 halftime lead.
The Patriot lead got as high as 19, when North Clay began to make a run late in the third quarter. The Knights scored the final 10 points of the third quarter, and seven of the first eight points of the fourth, to impressively claw their way to within six with four minutes to play.
However, after several minutes of ineffective play, the Patriot defense finally clamped down and stopped the Knight momentum, eventually pulling away en route to a 10-point win.
Coach Jennifer Smith said her team was 'out-physicaled' early, and they weren't able to recover in time to earn a win.
"(Owen Valley was) really hammering the backboard early," Smith said. "But we got more aggressive and got back into the game. It just wasn't enough."
Leeanna Knight led the North Clay attack with 11 points. Natasha Barrett added eight while Emily Pollard scored four.
The loss dropped the eighth-grade to 12-9. While Smith said there were certain areas, most notably free throw shooting (the Knights were 9-of-20 Tuesday night), she was very pleased with the progress her team made as the season progressed. Smith said her team was entering its final game, a road contest against Greencastle Thursday, as good as she could have possibly imagined at the beginning of the season.
"The girls have stepped up in a lot of basic elements of the game," Smith said. "We're ahead of the game in a lot of areas. It has just been a vast improvement from the beginning of the season."
Both seventh and-eighth-grade teams end their seasons Thursday with A-B double headers against Greencastle. The seventh-grade's quest for a perfect season takes place at home in a 6 p.m. tip-off, while the eighth-grade will play on the road, beginning at 5:30 p.m.