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Lady Norse coast by Eastern

By Eric Seaman - Plain Dealer Correspondent

Things were entirely back and forth early in play on Tuesday evening with the EasternLady Comets visiting Northfield, but the middle two quarters of the night’s contest proved to be the difference-makers.

The Norse only led by two points after the first quarter on Tuesday but used big second and third quarters to balloon their lead on their way to a 61-42 win. 

Northfield, ranked No. 4 in Class 1A, continued its winning ways on the season, extending the team’s current winning streak to 10 games, while Eastern continued its struggles in recent weeks. 

Things got started 21 seconds into the contest with a basket made underneath the hoop by Northfield’s Kyra Kennedy. 

Forty-five seconds later, though, Eastern’s Kaylee Weeks replied with a shot under the basket after getting an offensive rebound. Senior Kelcie Thomson quickly replied on the ensuing possession with a three-pointer, but 12 seconds later it was matched by Eastern’s McKenzie Cooper to tie things back up at five. 

A minute later, the Lady Comets got their first lead of the game after a layup by Lexi James. About 30 seconds later, Thomson stole the ball and pushed it up the court to Ariel Dale, who got on the board with a fast break layup. Thomson shortly afterward, though, fouled James, who sank both free throws and took Eastern’s second and final lead of the game at 9-7 with 4:26 left in the first quarter.

Dale got the first of her four three-pointers on the night 11 seconds later to put her squad up one. Thomson got fouled twice in the remainder of the quarter by James, making all four free throws, and Dale also sank another three-pointer. Weeks made a mid-range jumper that got the score to 15-13 Northfield after eight minutes of play.

Northfield came out hot to start the second period, putting up nine-unanswered points, including threes by Emma Hoover and Dale and a shot underneath by Kearston Stout in which she was also fouled, making the free throw. 

Eastern finally put up points in the quarter two and a half minutes in as Lilly Strunk made one of two free throws. Now down 10 points to the hosts, Eastern switched from man defense to a 2-3 zone. The shift worked briefly for Eastern, as they held the Norse scoreless for two and a half minutes, but Northfield began to find the holes in the Lady Comets’ zone and went into halftime up 30-19 with Dale recording half of Northfield’s points up until that point.

Weeks made a long two-pointer to get things started for Eastern, but much like the second quarter, the third quarter saw Northfield get a run on their opponents thanks to an 11-0 spurt, which began on a 5-0 run in a 24-second span by Dale in the second minute.

Cooper finally got the Comets going with a three-pointer half-way through the third and followed it up with a made free throw. Thomson, though, got the game’s momentum back on Northfield’s side with a 6-0 run of her own, highlighted by a three-pointer that prompted a timeout by Eastern head coach Andy Steele and a put-back off of an offensive rebound that also saw her make a free throw afterward. 

The Norse outscored the visitors by eight points in the third and rolled into the final period up 49-30. Both teams scored 12 points among eight combined players in the remaining eight minutes to secure Northfield’s 19-point victory.

Dale led all scorers on the night with 24 points. Complementing her scoring output was Thomson, who poured in 16 points. Other scorers for the Norse were Hoover and Stout with seven each, Kennedy with six and Ally Keaffaber with one. Northfield also finished the night 15 of 17 from the free throw line (88.2 percent), along with eight three-pointers made. 

Leading the way for Eastern was Cooper with 18, along with nine points each from James and Weeks. 

Despite the 19-point lead in which Eastern never outscored them in a quarter, Northfield head coach Melissa Allen wasn’t satisfied with her girls’ effort on the hardwood.

“I think we took a couple of steps backwards with how we’ve been playing the last few games,” Allen said, “but we’ll come back out stronger next time.”

Northfield (15-2) will return to action at 7:30 tonight as they travel to 3A Mississinewa, which is sporting a 10-7 record after a 57-44 loss to Marion on Tuesday evening.

Allen commented post-game on Tuesday that her team will be focusing on getting its defense back to form as they travel to the Indians tonight.

“It slacked tonight and we’ve really been taking pride in how hard we play defensively,” Allen said, “so we’re going to work hard tomorrow on the defensive end.”

Eastern, which is currently on a four-game losing streak, will take its 11-7 record home tonight as the Lady Comets will battle Southwood.