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Crawford slips to PLAC foe Mitchell

December 17, 2008
The Crawford County Lady Pack suffered a loss in an important conference contest Thursday night when the visiting Mitchell Lady Bluejackets got some late heroics from seniors Natalie Morse and Amanda Trambaugh. Not only did the 54-50 loss bruise Crawford County's record, it bruised nearly everyone who walked onto the court.

Crawford County's Mary Bolin, right, can't quite get her fingertips on the ball after knocking it away from Mitchell's Natalie Morse in the first half. The Lady Pack suffered a 54-50 loss in the PLAC match-up. (Photo by Wade Bell)
"The outcome of the game is disappointing because we want to win, but I could not be more proud of the girls that I have," Crawford coach Eric Toney said. "I think anybody who was sitting in the stands understands hustle and desire and intensity when they see it. We're out there just diving and going after the ball on all fours. We're stretching, just trying to get a finger on it. We're laying on the floor. Sometimes we get it, and sometimes we don't."

Crawford got an early jump on the Lady Jackets, taking a 10-4 lead following a deuce by Chelsea Benham. Mitchell hit just one of its first nine shots, then got a better look inside, with Devon Hardman and Morse scoring in the paint to pull Mitchell within four. Benham scored for the Lady Pack, but Morse swished a three near the end of the period, and Mitchell's deficit was just three.

Neither team shot well in the second. Crawford sank one of its first seven shots but kept a slight edge. Midway through the period, Crawford had a 6-1 burst for a 27-20 lead. Trambaugh countered with five straight points following a time-out. Amanda Toney and Shauncae Bigham sank free throws to push the Lady Pack lead back to five. Benham added another freebie with 10 seconds left in the half, and Crawford breathed a little easier at halftime, leading 31-25.

"We made some turnovers, obviously a lot of them," said Toney, whose team had 14 in the first half. "It's not because they're not trying. It's not because they're lackadaisical. They're out there working as hard as they can, and there's just some inexperience that kicks in as it does."

Three minutes into the third period Crawford suffered a major scare as Benham hit the floor hard while fighting for a rebound under the Mitchell basket. The senior had to be helped off the floor and left the game for several minutes. Mitchell took advantage, with Hardman scoring inside and Morse sinking a pair of threes to push Mitchell in front 36-32. Benham returned before the quarter's end and pulled Crawford back to tie at 36 at the end of the quarter.

"She's been battling some infection and she's been on antibiotics," Toney said of Benham. "At halftime she got nauseated. She hit her head on the floor, and I suspect she's either got a slight concussion or just the combination of all those things. She played very, very hard and as long as she could, as did all the girls. Even in as bad of shape as she was, she still gave us an opportunity to win down the stretch with some critical baskets."

Morse sank another three early in the fourth period, but Chelsea Jellison sank a long deuce to keep Crawford within one. Brianne Fults swished a Mitchell three, but Benham kept the Lady Pack within two. Trambaugh and Hardman pushed Mitchell's lead to six, but Benham fought back again with her own 6-2 burst, cutting Crawford's deficit to 50-48.

Then, with 1:21 left, Bigham scored and the game was tied at 50.

Mitchell misfired on another three, but Crawford turned over the ball. Morse launched a three that found the basket and Mitchell went up 53-50. Crawford missed its next two shots, then had to foul in an attempt to get the ball back. Trambaugh made one of two free throws to put the game out of reach, and the Lady Pack saw the night end in a 54-50 loss.

Toney said not having Benham at full strength made a big difference in the third period.

"She initiates so much of what we do offensively," he said. "Chelsea Jellison doesn't get good shots when Chelsea Benham isn't in there occupying a lot of offensive attention. Shauncae doesn't get easy shots inside if there aren't people helping out trying to stop Chelsea. There (were) a lot of minutes where she was not in there, and that's when things began to deteriorate."

Benham scored 24 points to lead Crawford, who had a rough night from the field, hitting just 16 of 60 field goal attempts (26 percent). The Lady Pack connected on 19 of 28 free throws, but struggled with 25 turnovers. Toney, however, was still pleased with how his team performed.

"We had excellent play by eight people," he said. "I'm just again very pleased with that aspect, because that's something that we talked about. The last several games we've won them, but I just didn't think we were playing with the kind of effort like we did in the North Harrison game. We wanted to get back to that effort in this game and we did."

Morse led Mitchell with 22 points, and Trambaugh followed with 20. Mitchell connected on 21 of 58 field goals (36 percent), but just 6 of 14 free throws. The Lady Jackets finished with 19 turnovers.

"Mitchell is a very tough team," Toney said. "Natalie Morse scored 25 of their 47 points last year. She hit six threes."

"From my standpoint, I'm just very, very pleased and encouraged," he said. "With that kind of effort, we can improve on anything and we'll be OK. What we're still focusing on is being as good as we can be by the end of January. We're on track to do that."

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The Wolfpack hosted Silver Creek last night (Tuesday) and will travel to Northeast Dubois Saturday evening.

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