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Lady Knights run out of gas in being dealt 54-40 setback

Posted: January 19, 2017 11:40 a.m.
Updated: January 20, 2017 1:00 a.m.
Tom Didato/C-I photo/

NORTH CENTRAL’S MADISON DIXON looks for an open teammate while being pressured by Central’s Zakeyiah Leach in action from Tuesday’s Region 4-AA game at The Castle in Boonetown.

Anyone within earshot could have given the North Central girls’ basketball team a heads up as to what was to be the points of emphasis for Wednesday’s practice.

Talking to no one person in particular following his team’s 54-40 loss to visiting Central on Tuesday, Lady Knights’ head coach Mitch Lowder said rebounding and physical toughness drills would be on the agenda come time for after school practice.

It was his team’s lack of physicality under the boards --- combined with cold shooting from the outside --- which helped the visiting Lady Eagles to a 26-18 lead and a hole from which the hostesses were unable to climb from in a contest played at The Castle in Boonetown.

The loss dropped the Lady Knights to 1-4 in Region 4-AA play and 4-8 overall.

Starting three freshmen, a sophomore and a senior, Lowder knows the aggressive side of the game will come with maturity and experience. For those reasons, he was hardly in a bad mood when talking about what parts of his team’s game needs tinkering.

“I told them in the locker room that we have to pick up the defense, get a little more aggressive, rebound better and we’ll be a good little ball team,” he said of his post-game talk with his squad.

Trailing by as many as 17 points, 40-23, late in the third quarter, the Lady Knights went on a furious 13-4 run to close the gap to 44-36 with five minutes left to play after freshman guard Peyton Holley floated home a pair of consecutive short jumpers in the first three minutes of the final quarter.

After Central head coach Eddie Rivers called a time out to regroup his charges, the Lady Eagles received 3-point jumpers from Zakeyiah Leach and Jamie Bracey within a half-minute of each other to touch off a 10-0 run which put this one out of reach at 54-36 with less than two minutes to play.

Lowder said after his girls took a chunk from the large deficit, they did not have enough left in the tank to complete the comeback bid.

“We cut the lead to 44-36 with about four of five minutes left and then, they scored eight straight points,” he said. “That was the run that did us in, right there.”

Leach, a junior guard, led all scorers with 20 points. That outdid the NC duo of sophomore Kali Tomlin and Holley, who had 17 and 14 points, respectively, with Holley heating up late and scoring eight fourth quarter points.

The game started well enough for NC which jumped out to a 6-2 lead thanks to the first of four Tomlin 3-point baskets and a stickback from Holley in the game’s first two and a half minutes. A 3-ball from Madison Dixon allowed the hostesses to maintain the lead at 9-7 only to see Leach score on a 15-footer and then a five-foot pull-up jumper in the closing 91 seconds to put the Lady Eagles on top, 14-11, after the first eight minutes of play.

Leach scored seven first quarter points and added two quick baskets to open the second quarter and give her team an 18-14 lead. Lowder quickly changed up his defense to try and slow down Leach by employing a box and one on the 5-foot-6 guard.

“She’s a good ballplayer. She’s one of the best I’ve seen in our region this year. She shoots the ball well and handles the ball well,” Lowder said of Leach. “We put Jessica Rutherford on her; she’s what we call our ‘aggravator.’ She played hard and kept her from scoring and (Leach) only had two free throws the rest of the first half.”

A pair of Tomlin treys and a putback from center Amorhi Boykin drew NC to within 20-18 with 3:19 left before half. Central, however, closed with a 6-0 run to carry a 26-18 advantage into the locker room at intermission.

In the opening 16 minutes, the Lady Eagles had three second-chance baskets, made six of seven free throws, were controlling the boards and were getting to almost all the loose balls. That did not sit well with Lowder who refused to blame a day off on Monday, due to the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, as an excuse for his team’s early struggles.

“I didn’t know exactly how we were going to come out tonight, coming out of the holiday and not practicing yesterday,” he said. “I felt that we would come out ready to play and we did. We came out loose and were ready but we just couldn’t get things rolling.”

A putback from Ashanti Joines gave Central its first double-digit lead of the night at 30-20 with 7:28 left in the third quarter. A Tomlin jumper from beyond the arch cut the margin to seven before Jones and Bracey knocked down back-to-back treys to touch off a 10-0 spree which gave the Lady Eagles a 40-23 advantage with 3:33 left in the third.

“I don’t know if it’s the sign of a young team or what but we came out in the second half and were still watching the flight of the ball instead of putting a body on somebody,” Lowder said of his team’s play on the defensive end. 

“We also had some key turnovers and we got lackadaisical in our transition game. We’d get the ball out and they’re athletic enough to come up behind you and take the ball away. We’re just a little sporadic.”

North Central’s last-gasp rally started with a Tomlin trifecta, a free throw and a baseline jumper from Holley which cut the Central lead to 40-29 entering a final stanza which opened with a Dixon trey which led by the aforementioned pair of Holley baskets in the first three minutes of the fourth quarter.

In a battle between two teams which combined to start six freshmen, a sophomore, a junior and two seniors in their lineups, Lowder said he expects to see improvement from each side as this year continues as well as in the future.

“They have a good team. Coach Rivers is in his first year there after coming down from North Carolina and is doing a good job with them,” Lowder said. “And, we have girls who will work hard. Hopefully, we’ll get better.”


Central (54): Yvonne Vanderpool 2 5-6 9, Zakeyiah Leach 8 3-3 20, Jamie Bracey 3 2-4 10, Ashanti Joines 4 0-0 9, Desta’ Nee Chambers 3 0-0 6, Daebreon Person 0 0-2 0. Totals: 20 10-15 54

NC (40): Cirarra Black 0 1-2 1, Kali Tomlin 6 1-2 17, Peyton Holley 7 0-0 14, Madison Dixon 2 0-0 6, Amorhi Boykin 1 0-0 2. Totals: 16 2-4 40

Score by quarters: First: Central, 14-11; Halftime: Central, 26-18; Third: Central, 40-29; Three-point goals: Central 4 (Bracey 2, Leach, Joines), NC 6 (Tomlin 4, Dixon 2)


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