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Indian defense smothers Norse

Indians: Northfield’s Emma Hoover dribbles downcourt during a fastbreak during Thursday’s contest against Mississinewa.

BY JACOB RUDE - sports@wabashplaindealer.com

The opening eight minutes of Thursday’s girls’ basketball showdown with Northfield and Mississinewa played out something similar to last season’s contest, the Indians turning the ball over far too often and the Norse capitalizing on those mistakes.

But the next 24 minutes of the contest played out to an entirely different tune, spelling out the different paths currently the Indians and Norse are on. After falling behind 15-6 in the opening frame, Mississinewa outscored the host Norse 43-18 the rest of the way to win going away on the night, 49-33.

“I’m so proud of our girls, man,” Mississinewa head coach Laura Friday said. “We came out a little slow but the way they came back, last year against this same team we were down seven points and then we just kind of fell off and that was it. This year, we were down nine points and we came back. I think that just shows a lot of improvement from our girls and understanding and the belief in themselves that we can come back in games and we can make a statement. So, I’m just really proud of their effort tonight.”

Northfield used its patented run-and-jump full-court press to force turnover after turnover to open the night as the hosts scored the first six points and eight of the first ten before a timeout from Mississinewa two minutes into the game.

While the Indians would steady the ship the rest of the quarter, Northfield still lengthened its lead to head into the second period up 15-6. It would be a tale of two quarters, though, as Mississinewa came out the aggressors in the period, scoring the first 13 points of the frame over the opening 4:42.

“I think we were just a little nervous,” Friday said of the first period. “Our first game out, just trying to get a hang of things and feel the temperature of the game. But once they calmed their nerves down, it went well after that.”

Northfield’s first points of the period would not come until the 2:36 mark from Kearston Stout. By then, the Norse trailed 19-17. Caily Bolser, who finished with a game-high 20 points, helped stretch the lead back out to nearly double digits as the Indians outscored Northfield 20-4 in the second period.

Bolser opened the second half with a layup for Mississinewa but Northfield’s Emma Hoover would match her shot for shot in the period. Hoover connected on back-to-back threes to close the gap to 28-25 early in the frame. That, though, would be as close as Northfield would ever get the rest of the game.

While Hoover accounted for all 10 of the Norse’s third-quarter points, Mississinewa only lengthened its lead in the period to double digits after a three-pointer from Alayna Webb. The guests drove the dagger home in the fourth by holding the Norse off the scoreboard for opening 5:34 of the period while opening the advantage up to 20 points at 49-29.

“Defense is our bread and butter,” Friday said. “We try to focus on that a lot in practice. We know that we can stop teams defensively as long as we just hunker down and do it. I’m just really proud of how our team came out.”

Baker scored Northfield’s first basket of the fourth at the 2:26 mark and Emily Pennington converted a turnover into a score for the only other points of the quarter. After scoring 15 points in the opening period, Northfield managed 18 points the remainder of the contest while managing just four points in each the second and fourth periods.

Webb and Darah Watson had 11 and 10 points, respectively, to follow Bolser for Mississinewa while Riley McKee chipped in six and Kaiyah Jones four.

Hoover finished with almost half of the Norse’s points on the night, leading the way with 15. Stout tallied eight while Addi Baker and Kenzie Baer had four apiece and Pennington two.

The loss is the largest margin of defeat for the Norse in a game since Nov. 19, 2016 when Northfield lost to Huntington North 58-40. It also snaps a 15-game regular-season winning streak that dated back to Dec. 1 of last season.

Northfield will travel to Western on Tuesday while Mississinewa will host Tipton on Saturday. Both games are slated for 7:30 p.m. starts.