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Class A No. 4 Northfield runs past Ole Miss

DOUBLE TROUBLE: Mississinewa’s Caily Bolser looks for space between a Northfield double-team in the Class A No. 4 Norsemen’s 54-37 win over the Indians Thursday night in Gas City.

BY SCOTT HUNT - shunt@chronicle-tribune.com

GAS CITY — A difficult set of ingredients combined to make Thursday night a tough one for the Mississinewa girls’ basketball team.

Class A No. 4 Northfield certainly had the most do to with it.

The Norse used their pressure defense on the perimeter as well as against Indians’ 6-foot-5 junior center Caily Bolser to break open a close game in the second quarter and cruise to a 54-37 win over Ole Miss.

Mississinewa raced out to an 8-2 lead midway through the first quarter on a pair of Bolser offensive putbacks along with buckets by Riley McKee and Ally Hewitt.

On Hewitt’s score, Ole Miss coach Omega Tandy was warned by an official for yelling ‘and one’ on the play and was told if it came from the Ole Miss bench again a technical foul would be assessed. 

“We have a call we call it ‘and one’ and it just means we need to finish strong and through people. We do it practice,” Tandy explained. “When I said it to one of the girls the ref got on me about it and said I will not  tolerate that this game. I tried to explain to him but he didn’t want to hear it”

Tandy called timeout to explain to her team not to use the term and immediately following Bolser was assessed a technical for reaching across the in-line on an out-of-bounds play.

“We lost it from there. Mentally we were gone,” Tandy said. “We looked tired and I’m not sure why. We rested yesterday after playing so tough against Marion. Mentally we just completely shut down and that was the most frustrating part for me because we have not been that this season.”

And the Norsemen wasted little time in pouncing on the Indians. 

Kelcie Thomson made both technical free throws to start a streak of six straight points for Northfield, but Mississinewa still held a 10-8 lead after the first quarter.

Bolser scored six of her seven points for Ole Miss in the first but a rotation of smaller but athletic post players for the Norsemen kept her surrounded for the rest of the night and limited the Toledo University commit to only two shot attempts over the final three quarters.

“We told them they’ve just got to keep working and if the ball did go into (Bolser) we wanted her to be double- or triple-teamed,” said Northfield coach Melissa Allen. “Make it harder on the girls passing the ball in there so maybe they couldn’t see if she was open.”

While the Norse bigs were tending to Bolser, the senior guard trio of Thomson, Ariel Dale and Ally Keaffaber were causing fits for the Indians back court.

Northfield forced eight turnovers in the second quarter and used a 12-2 run to move ahead 20-12 with 3:30 to play in the half before taking a 24-15 advantage to intermission.

For the game Mississinewa turned the ball over 19 times compared to just nine for Northfield. 

“That is a very good basketball team. They’re very well coached and have won a lot of games,” Tandy said of the Norsemen before referencing the 74-38 loss to Northfield last season. “We understood that we had to come in take care of the basketball and get the ball inside. I think we started that way. Caily did a great job tonight of getting her space and demanding the basketball but we just as guards didn’t do a good job of getting it to her consistently.

“They do a great job of pressuring the ball and they’re very disciplined,” Tandy added. “They’re just a very good basketball team. We were confident going into that game that we had the gameplan and the players to be successful. We just turned it over and they outrebounded us. We just weren’t firing on all-cylinders tonight.”

Northfield extended its lead to 32-16 in the first 2:30 of the second half before Mississinewa narrowed the gap back to 38-28 entering the final eight minutes. Northfield played effective ball control on offense and hit 4-of-8 from the field and 8-of-8 from the foul line over the final eight minutes to pull away for the win.

Unofficially, the rebounding battle was even at 26 apiece, but 12 of Northfield’s boards came on the offensive end.

“Every 50-50 ball that we saw they got, that’s why they’re successful, Northfield’s program,” Tandy said. “They understand that those plays are very important to the success of their team and they fought harder than we did for those.”

Northfield was a perfect 13-of-13 from the foul line while Mississinewa connected on only 6-of-14.

Thomson scored 14 of her game-high 18 points in the second half while Dale, who will sign today to play at Taylor University next season, ended with 15. Sophomore Addi Baker added seven while sophomores Kyra Kennedy and Kearston Stout scored six each for Northfield. 

“They’re very important, without those two we’d be a completely different team,” Allen said of Thomson and Dale. “The girls look up to them and they run this team and they work so well together. All of them have been playing so long together they know what each other is going to do.”

Alayna Webb scored 12 of her team-high 14 points for Ole Miss in the second half while Bolser, McKee and Hewitt chipped in seven points each. Bolser pulled down 13 rebounds. 

Mississinewa (10-8) returns to the court at 12:30 p.m. Saturday with a Central Indiana Conference game at Blackford.

Northfield (16-2) can take a big step towards winning the Three Rivers Conference with a game at North Miami at 6:15 p.m. today.