PARK HILLS — Before they met on Central’s court Thursday evening, the North County Raiders and the Central Lady Rebels had identical records, both conference and overall, so something had to give. It did, but not until the third quarter when the Lady Raiders took control of the game for a 51-43 win which also gave them sole possession of first place in the MAAA Large-School Conference.
The Lady Raiders scored first in the game, and then tried to use a full-court press to defend, but the quickness of the Central’s guards enabled the Lady Rebels to take the lead as they often broke through for a finishing lay-up.
Unable to work the ball in on Central’s defense, the Lady Raiders relied on offensive rebounding to score on the putback. Trying to lob passes into their taller forwards resulted in the Lady Rebels swiping the pass, and quickly turning the play into two-points on the other end. Riley Owens gave Central a 7-2 lead with a three-pointer.
North County regained the lead momentarily to start the second quarter with the first two baskets. The two teams matched shot for shot until a three by Briley Merritt gave the Lady Rebels a five-point lead again. Marissa Bonney cut the lead back to two with a three. Bonney scored five of her game’s 10 points in the quarter.
The Lady Rebels played toe-to-toe with the taller Lady Raiders as they blocked three of North County’s shots in the quarter with Owens making two on one play, and Sydney Skaggs making her second in the game on the Lady Raiders very next possession. North County outrebounded Central 38-32.
Freshman Kourtney Kekec set up the Lady Raiders third-quarter surge with a three-pointer just before the buzzer to end the first half of play, giving North County a 26-24 lead. The basket was the fifth lead-change in the second quarter. The Lady Raiders never trailed again.
Utilizing its height advantage, North County (9-4) made good on several second-chance shots, scoring eight of their 16 points in the quarter after offensive rebounds.
The Lady Raiders half-court defense hampered Central’s offensive attacks to a great measure. Two free throws by Jenna McGraw gave the Lady Raiders a nine-point lead with 4:37 left in the quarter, and Central Coach Matt Bradley called time with his team having not shot the ball once from the floor in the quarter. The Lady Rebels made 11 of their game’s 24 turnovers in the third.
The Lady Rebels first shot attempt came at the 4:10 mark, and all five of their points in the quarter would only come at the free-throw line as they went 0-5 from the floor. Adding to their shooting woes was Owens, having to take a seat with two minutes left after committing her fourth foul.
North County’s top-scorer Brittany Collins, who had virtually been held quiet by Central’s man-defense, broke loose for half of her game’s 12 points in the quarter.
Owens would return to start the fourth quarter, and she would immediately make her presence known with a quick five points to cut North County’s 13-point lead nearly in half, giving her 12 points in the game. Owens exited the game for good with 4:43 still left on the clock.
The Lady Raiders pulled the ball out with 3:30 left in the game, and Central sent them to the free-throw line in trying to get the ball back. Fouling nearly worked as the Lady Raiders made only 7-13 in the quarter, but on the other end the Lady Rebels struggled to get off a clean shot as North County’s defense held for the most part.
With North’s County’s Coach Joe Arnold yelling “No threes” to his defense, Central’s Sydney Skaggs drilled one from the top of the key. The Lady Raiders, however, did not give up another one the rest of the way.
Both teams will be at home on Monday for their next game. Central will host Crystal City, and North County will host De Soto.
North County 12 14 16 9 – 51
Central 15 9 5 14 – 43
NC – Brittany Collins 12, Marissa Bonney 10, Mikayla Barlow 9, Kourtney Kekec 7, Jenna McGraw 7, Paige Charboneau 6. 3-pt. FG – Bonney, Kekec. FT – 14-30.
Central – Riley Owens 12, Brylee Boyd 9, Briley Merritt 8, Mackenzie Jones 6, Sydney Skaggs 4, Tia Jordan 4. 3-pt. FG – Owens 2, Merritt, Skaggs. FT – 7-16.