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Free throws push Lady Cats by Crawford


November 26, 2008
The North Harrison Lady Cats withstood a second quarter power surge by host Crawford County and held on to earn a 53-47 win. The victory improved North Harrison's record to 3-0 while Crawford dropped to 1-2.

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Crawford County's Chelsea Benham, center, slices between North Harrison's, from left, Wynn Shroyer, Sasha Grangier and Kacey Cox to score in the first half. "You just can't leave her," Pearson said of Benham. "She made us pay every time we did that." (Photo by Wade Bell)
"We'll take it," North Harrison coach Hal Pearson said. "Crawford probably made us play ugly at times. That's a positive for them. They came in and had a good crowd."

"On the sports calendars it's going to go down as an 'L', but in my mind it really isn't because of how we played," Crawford coach Eric Toney said. "All the kids played extremely well. Not that they executed everything, passed the ball perfectly every time, our passing isn't what it needs to be, but they all just battled hard."

North Harrison came out with all cylinders firing and a lot of shots finding the hoop. Kacey Cox and Kayla Lambert led the Lady Cat charge, with Cox swishing two threes as North Harrison took an 18-7 lead.

The second quarter was as though one switch turned off and another turned on. Chelsea Benham began the period knocking down a deuce and a three-ball to cut the Crawford deficit to six. The two teams then swapped baskets until Mary Bolin came off the bench for five quick points to close the gap to three, 22-19. Lambert and Cox pushed the North Harrison lead back to seven, but Crawford finished with a 9-2 run, as Amanda Toney scored on the baseline with a second left to close the gap to 29-28 at halftime.

"I just really admire their toughness, because they don't give up," Toney said. "It did not look good early in the game. They were up 18-7 and seemed to have all their gears meshing perfectly. Our wheels were coming off. I called a timeout, and I didn't know what to say other than try to settle down and try to battle back."

"I think there was a part when we got to 18-7 right there in one stretch and then we allowed Benham to get loose and get some easies on us, which kind of brought them back," Pearson said. "Most of the time when they came back on us, it was when we lost Benham right at the end of the first half."

Cox and Lambert started the second half with threes for a 35-28 Lady Cat lead. Benham, however, was finding her way through the North Harrison defense, keeping Crawford within five. Chelsea Jellison closed the deficit to one with a pair of deuces, and the score was 37-36 with eight minutes to go.

"I think they did gain some composure, and we got back in it, and by halftime we were down two," Toney said. "We battled tough throughout the third quarter and early fourth quarter."

Carolyn Pellman put Crawford in front for the first time with a long deuce at the start of the fourth period. Lambert got one of those back, but Benham countered with a three, and the Lady Pack edge went to three, 41-38.

From there, however, the game went to the free-throw line. North Harrison sank 14 of 18 free throws in the final six minutes, going on to escape with the 53-47 win.

"Early, we played really well," Pearson said. "We shot well. Crawford County made a little run, and we lost a little bit of confidence there in the stretch. We didn't do some of the things we should be doing. Even late, we didn't, so I was happy to come out with a win."

Toney said he knew if the Lady Cats got on the line, it would be a dangerous situation.

"We put that on the scouting sheet," he said. "They're an outstanding free-throw shooting team. … They just hit their free throws, and that's something seniors do, and they do it very well. Against a good team like that, you've got the be ahead of them."

Cox and Lambert led the winners with 17 points each, Cox getting four triples in her cause. North Harrison was 16 of 22 from the stripe and made 11 turnovers.

"Tonight, we played really well for a quarter, then got really complacent for a couple of quarters and quit attacking," Pearson said. "We didn't run sets right. We took the first quick shot we could find. We're having a hard time figuring out when to slow down when we need a basket."

Benham led Crawford with 21 points. The Lady Pack connected on 6 of 8 free throws and committed 18 turnovers.

"You just can't leave her," Pearson said of Benham. "We helped a couple of times, then we lost her. She made us pay every time we did that."

"She kept her composure," Toney said of Benham. "She got knocked around a few times and wasn't taken out of her game. She continued to be relentlessly focused on what she needed to do to help us, which was to stay in the game."

Toney gave credit to Bolin, whose scoring came at a critical time.

"Mary came in and played like I envisioned her playing for us," he said. "She made a lot of things happen defensively. She did score some, but a lot of it was hustle kind of stuff."

For North Harrison, it meant working on certain problems, while for Toney it was a game to build more confidence.

"We've got a lot of things to work on and a lot of things to improve on," Pearson said. "They hurt us in our press in some spots tonight. We've got some stuff we're going to throw in and tweak over Christmas, when we come back, and just try to continue to improve every day."

"This is a team that has something all coaches want," Toney said of his girls. "No matter what happens in the game, you always feel like you can come back. As a coach, I have that because they have that mental toughness they think they can."

Click for photo gallery

*****

On Friday night, Crawford County came back to even up its record at 2-2 with a 70-65 shoot-out win over host Tell City.

The Lady Pack put three players in double figures, with Chelsea Benham leading the way with 29 points. Chelsea Jellison finished with 12 points, and Shauncae Bigham added 10.

Lauren Goffinet led Tell City with 31 points.

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