After an evenly-played first half, Highland took over their girls’ basketball game at Northmor Wednesday with a strong second-half effort in taking a 54-36 decision to improve to 5-2 in league play, 5-7 overall. The Knights are now 4-8, 2-5.
“We just executed down the stretch and made a lot of free throws, which helps,” said Highland coach Payton Woodruff. “We were getting in trouble in the first half and made adjustments and came out and played hard defense as a team.”
The Scots trailed 22-21 at the half, but quickly took a three-point lead on baskets from Gena West and Madison Cecil. However, much like in the back-and-forth first half, Northmor had an answer, getting two free throws from Addie Farley followed by a basket from Becca Duckworth to regain the advantage at 26-25 with 3:49 remaining in the period.
Highland would finish the quarter on a 7-1 run sparked by five points by Erica Sardinha, though, and led 32-27 entering the final eight minutes.
The Scots continued their strong play in the fourth quarter, scoring the first five points of the period to open up a 10-point lead. Farley responded with a basket for Northmor, but Highland then tallied eight in a row, four by Sardinha at the foul line, to increase their advantage to a 45-29 margin with 3:16 left in a game they would win by 18.
“We were sleepwalking,” said Northmor coach Fred Beachy of his team’s second-half performance. “I get that some of our players are inexperienced, but we had too many turnovers and missed lay-ups. If we shoot bad on one end, we let it get in our heads and carry it over to the defensive end.”
The Knights also had to see too much of Sardinha that night. The Scot senior finished with a game-high 26 points, hitting three three-pointers and adding 15 more points at the free throw line.
“She’s comfortable at the free throw line and we try to utilize her attacking the basket,” said Woodruff.
Northmor did get out to a fast start in the contest and were able to respond to Highland and maintain a slim lead going into the halftime intermission. A pair of baskets by Leslie Brubaker opened the game. After the Scots tied it on shots by Cecil and Brooklyn Baird, the Knights got scores by Julianna Ditullio and Farley to lead 8-4.
Six points by Sardinha helped Highland to their first lead at 12-8, but the Knights got within one by the end of the opening period and then regained the lead on a basket by Farley and a free throw from Cristianna Boggs. The teams would play evenly in the period, with Northmor scoring last on a bucket from Farley to lead by one going into the locker room.
After his team’s strong second half, Woodruff was glad to be back in league play after a couple tough out-of-conference games over the holidays.
“The season is halfway over now, so we’ve seen the majority of our opponents,” he said. “It does feel good to have conference games back.”
Along with Sardinha’s 24-point game, Highland got 10 from Cecil. Northmor was led by Farley’s 16, while Brubaker added eight. After dropping five straight after a 4-3 start, Beachy feels his team simply needs to improve their performance.
“Being mentally tough and just doing the little things right,” he said when asked what needs to happen to get back into the win column. “That’s what it’s going to take.”
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS