CLAYTON – As the teams took the court Wednesday night, one could see that Greenville had a tall mountain to climb.
Northmont’s starters were about a head taller than Greenville. And not only did the Thunderbolts have a height advantage, but they could run the court and shoot well.
It was an ugly first half, but Greenville collected itself in the locker room and put together a nice rally in the third quarter.
Northmont regrouped at the break between quarters and came out with a vengeance in the last quarter, outplaying the Wave for a 46-31 win.
At halftime, it was a 30-11 score. The Lady Wave were getting beat at all phases of the game at that point. But Coach Rachel Kerns sorted things out at halftime and got the team ready to make a run a in the third quarter. The scrappy team slowly closed the gap by playing stubborn defense and working the ball hard on offense to get an open shot.
“I told them at halftime that they need to believe in themselves,” Coach Kerns said. “Defensively we were going to pack it in and make them shoot outside. And our defense really stepped up; we had a lot of defensive rebounds.”
Right before the buzzer Morgan Gilbert nailed a 3-pointer to put Greenville within 10 of Northmont, 34-24. And when Payton Brandenburg hit a free throw to put the Wave within 9 at the start of the fourth quarter, it looked like Greenville had a chance.
Instead it was the high water mark for the Wave. The Bolts went back to a full-court press and turned up the intensity. Greenville would not score again until Saki Nakamura hit a trey with 2:49 left in the game. Meanwhile, Northmont was able to re-extend its lead.
“We talked in the locker room and said that we have earned the right to play with these teams,” Kerns said. “We just cannot afford to get down the way that we did in that first quarter. There was no question as to the effort with which those girls were playing with.
“Our free throws were five of six in the third quarter. We were playing against a bigger and athletic Northmont team, but we shot free throws poorly overall – we made just nine of 22. If we make seven more, then we are in the game. This is a good game to measure where we at against a tough opponent. If you look at last year compared to now, it is a much different, much improved team. But now we need to see that same effort through four quarters. This is one of the top two teams that we are going to play.”
Greenville proved that it could play with a bigger, faster opponent. The Wave proved that they had fight even when the odds were against them. This will be needed as they enter league play next week against Troy.