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North Miami survives late Manchester rally

BY TRENT SCOTT - tscott@perutribune.com

Yet again, the closing stretch of a girls’ basketball game came down to the wire for North Miami.

Hosting Manchester Saturday night, the Warriors stifled the Squires in the first half for a 22-9 lead but had to hang on in the closing seconds after seeing a 10-point lead whittled down to one, eventually pulling out a 47-43 win.

North Miami head coach Steve McClure said the girls made good on their early advantage and stood tall when it counted most.

“Both teams gave a good accounting of themselves,” McClure said. “Manchester is capable of scoring very quickly and moved the ball very well.

“We tried to switch defenses to throw them a curve. We’re proud of the girls as we had an unusual week of preparation due to the cold and losing the game midweek.

“We have a saying of taking unusual situations and making them unusually good and we did that,” McClure added. “The girls held it together mentally and while it wasn’t technically one of our best games, mentally this was a strong showing from us.”

The Warriors built up a 10-8 first quarter lead thanks to their advantage in the post.

Caily Bolser hit from close range twice, as did Cailyn Bolser, Adria Hartley and Maryann Freeman as the hosts held a 10-8 lead after a quarter of play.

Continued pounding in the paint eventually paid off in the second quarter as North Miami was sent to the foul line five times and connected on 8-of-10 attempts.

Meanwhile, Manchester’s offense was completely out of sorts, committing 10 turnovers in the second period while only managing a single Emma West free throw.

The result was a 22-9 Warrior lead at halftime, one McClure said was down to getting the Squires off their game and shooting well at the line.

“We started off in a half-court zone and Manchester had worked on that, getting some good looks early,” McClure noted. “They scored a few points off their defense but once we started rotating our defense, it helped to get them out of their rhythm.

“We’re also at a point where if we don’t beat ourselves, we’re going to be competitive in most games and one of those places it at the free throw line. We had to get better at that, and we are, though we’re not maxed out at that.”

Signs of life started to spring from Manchester at the start of the third quarter as the team began to trade baskets with North Miami, reducing the deficit to as close as five at 29-24 following an Erika Kendall jumper.

The Warriors scored the final four points of the quarter through Hartley and Bailey Keim to take a 33-24 lead into the final period.

One of the big takeaways from the game for McClure was improved finishing around the rim, something the team had been doing a great deal of in practice.

“We’ve been doing a lot of shooting drills with contact close to the basket,” McClure pointed out. “We’ve needed the confidence to go in there and finish.

“Before, it was a case of having an opportunity and the girls not thinking of blowing it but rather thinking positively and cashing in on the chance they have.”

The hosts kept the lead near 10 following baskets from Cailyn Bolser and Hartley and countered a Kennedy Fierstos three with a three-point play from Hartley.

Trailing 42-32, Manchester finally made the big push it was looking for beginning with free throws from Sydney Day and Kiera Hatfield.

Hartley scored at the other end but West added a free throw and back-to-back threes from Day and Fierstos cut the gap to 44-43 with just under a minute to play.

Hartley had a chance to increase the lead but missed the front end of a one-and-one and it looked initially as though the Squires would get a chance from the line following a foul on the rebound.

Fierstos, however, was marginally out of her zone on the line before the foul shot and so Hartley got another chance to shoot.

Yet again, the North Miami junior missed, setting up Manchester for a chance to take the lead.

Three shots went up and none connected with Cailyn Bolser scoring at the other end to stretch the lead to 46-43.

Day fired up another three at the other end that was well off target and Caily Bolser knocked down one-of-two free throws at the other end to seal the deal.

The win knocked Manchester off the top of the TRC table and into a muddied tie with four schools sitting on one conference loss and both North Miami and Wabash sitting at 3-2.

The Warriors host Lewis Cass before a five-game road stretch begins that will see the girls face the remaining teams in the sectional, including the Kings on Wednesday.

McClure said the goal was to continue working on the things the team needed to work on but also get an understanding of what the sectional teams had to offer.

“We’re going to see almost all of our sectional opponents during this stretch,” McClure said. “We’re need to continue to focus on our own improvement and then be a little wiser with what we see happen.

“As we play these teams, we can see what they do and be a little more prepared when we draw them in the tournament.”

At North Miami

Manchester 8 1 15 19 — 43

North Miami 10 12 11 14 — 47


Manchester — Day 15, Fierstos 12, West 8, Ke. Hatfield 4, Ki. Hatfield 2, Kendall 2, Cripe 0, Bazzoni 0

North Miami — Hartley 15, Cy. Bolser 11, Cn. Bolser 8, Keim 7, Tinney 2, Freeman 2, Hall 2, Kraning 0

Next Game: North Miami (10-3, 3-2 TRC) hosts Lewis Cass (3-13) Wednesday at 6 p.m.