By GREG MENGELT
The North Harrison Lady Cats are a pretty tough Mid-Southern Conference opponent.
There was one Cat that Silver Creek coach Scott Schoen didn’t want to beat his Dragons. However, North Harrison senior Kendra Lambert scored 16 of her 18 points in the first half to help the Cats hand Creek a 54-38 in its Mid-Southern Conference opener.
“We talked early that you can’t let the cat out of the bad,” Schoen said. “You can’t let her hit her first shot. You can’t let her get clean looks. She’s a good shooter even if you’re in her space, but we let her get clean looks. You give her a foot and she’ll shoot it. We didn’t get a good job of making her uncomfortable. She’s a great shooter.”
“I always want to come out strong and get some points and help us get a win,” Lambert said.
North Harrison improved to 3-2 with the win, and despite a loss at Scottsburg over the weekend, Lambert and the Cats believe they can get the program’s first MSC title since 2009.
“It’s an extremely important win,” Lambert said. “In the conference, we always want to be the ones on top and get the trophy at the end. We haven’t won it since 2009. I think coming back and winning it would be a great way to do it.”
After a 4-1 start a year ago, the inexperienced Dragons are now 0-3 in 2013-14. Despite three double-figure losses, Schoen isn’t discouraged about the outlook for his team.
“Every time I think we take a couple steps forward, we take two or three steps backwards,” Schoen said. “I still feel like we’re progressing. I still feel like by the end of the year, we’re going to be a team that’s going to give someone a run in sectional. I feel like we’ll be a hard out in sectional. We just want to continue to get better.”
It looked early like the Dragons may break into the win column as Bailee Popp and Tori Martin helped lead Silver Creek to leads of 7-2 and 11-6. Popp scored six of the Dragons’ first nine points and Martin had five points in the quarter.
However, less than two minutes into the game, Silver Creek’s Kelsi Scott picked up her second foul and had to sit.
That — along with Lambert’s hot hand — helped the Cats get back into the game quickly.
“When we don’t have Kelsi on the floor, it hurts us a lot,” Schoen said. “We run a lot of stuff through her. When she’s on the floor, we’re better — and the score shows that.”
Lambert hit her second 3-pointer with 2:20 left in the first period to pull North Harrison to within 12-9. A steal and a bucket from Lambert made it 12-11. A Hannah Mattingly bucket on one of Alexis Barnett’s seven assists gave Creek a 14-11 advantage, but Jill Book hit an 18-footer at the first-quarter buzzer to pull the Cats within 14-13.
A Cammie Jones putback seconds into the second period gave North Harrison the lead for good. Lambert’s third 3 then made it 18-14. After Morgan Knies cut the lead in half with a layup on another Barnett assist, Lambert drained her fourth shot from behind the arc for a 21-14 North Harrison lead. Jourdan McAfee followed with a 3 of her own to push the advantage to 10.
The closest Creek got the rest of the way was at 39-30 on a Martin 3-pointer midway through the third quarter and at 41-32 on two of Scott’s seven third-quarter points with 2:30 left in the third.
Scott finished with a team-high 14 points and added eight boards and two blocked shots before fouling out with 4:42 remaining in the contest.
“Offensively, she’s very skilled,” Schoen said of his junior center. “I’m very pleased with how she’s playing offensively. Defensively, we need to get her moving a little better and blocking out and rebounding.”
Popp finished with eight points and a team-high nine rebounds and Barnett had a pair of steals to go along with her seven assists.
Book, who was assessed a technical foul for not being in the North Harrison scorebook prior to the game, came off the bench to score 14 points. She also had three steals.
Creek will play three more consecutive MSC games coming up, including at 3-3 Clarksville next Wednesday. The Cats host Jasper next Tuesday.
NORTH HARRISON 54, SILVER CREEK 38
Silver Creek 14 8 10 6—38
North Harrison 13 20 13 8—54
Silver Creek (0-3, 0-1 MSC): Bailee Popp 8, Tori Martin 9, Morgan Knies 2, Casie Toby 3, Hannah Mattingly 2, Kelsi Scott 14.
North Harrison (3-2, 1-1): Jill Book 14, Kendra Lambert 18, Carlie Burson 5, Jourdan McAfee 5, Cammie Jones 11, Shayla Neal 1.
3-point field goals: Silver Creek 2 (Martin 2); North Harrison 6 (Lambert 4, Book, McAfee).
Rebounds: Silver Creek 30 (Popp 9); North Harrison 29 (Neal 10).
Assists: Silver Creek 12 (Barnett 7); North Harrison 9 (Stevi Burns 3).
Steals: Silver Creek 2 (Barnett 2); North Harrison 12 (Book 3).
Blocked shots: Silver Creek 6 (Scott 2, Knies 2); North Harrison 2 (Hayley Elliott, Megan Smith).
Turnovers: Silver Creek 23; North Harrison 11.
Team fouls: Silver Creek 15; North Harrison 12.
Fouled out: Scott (SC).
Technical foul: North Harrison (player entered game who was not in scorebook).
JV: North Harrison 41-21.