CULVER – On an early February night when the Culver skyline had lightning and it was 53 degrees outside Culver Community High School, it was not raining jumpshots inside the John Nelson arena. But a pair of threes and a last-second bank shot fell from the sky, allowing North Miami to defeat Triton, 31-29, Tuesday night in the opening round of the Class 1-A girls basketball sectional at Culver.
It was an ice cold shooting night for both clubs, particularly North Miami for three quarters. The Warriors couldn’t get shots to fall from any angle until suddenly it was as if the Basketball Gods opened up the gym and guided North Miami’s shots. North Miami trailed Triton 22-14 heading into the fourth quarter and the Trojans still led by eight at 27-19 with a couple minutes left when North Miami discovered its shooting touch.
Cailyn Bolser hit a jumper and Adria Hartley nailed a three. After a Triton turnover, Sammy Tims hit a shot and Hartley answered a Triton free throw with another bomb. Suddenly what seemed like enough of a Triton balloon had bursted, the score was tied at 29.
A turnover on Triton’s next possession gave North Miami the ball back with 25 seconds to go, and with 2.5 seconds left, Riley Saddlemire banked in a 12-footer to give the Warriors its only lead of the night.
“We got impatient,” said Triton head coach Adam Heckaman. “We tried to force some things. We had some kids who wanted to get some points in because we were struggling offensively. We didn’t want to be patient and had some bad passes, bad turnovers at bad times. Mentally we didn’t play the way we needed to with a big lead.”
North Miami had made just 6-21 shots in the game before the outburst in the fourth quarter, but scored more points in the fourth – 17- than it did in the first three quarters – 14.
Heckaman noted several little things that did the Trojans in aside from the sudden hot shooting from North Miami, a couple were notable.
Post Charlotte Morris drew four fouls in two spurts, two in a ten-second span in the second quarter and another two late in the third, the fourth with five-tenths of a second on the clock 90 feet from the basket. With Morris on the bench, Triton was without her six points and three rebounds but also missing 6’0″ inside.
Heckaman pointed to not calling a timeout as Triton had the ball with 30 seconds to go in the game, subsequently watching as an interior pass was intercepted by North Miami, to which the Saddlemire shot was the result.
Jaela Meister finished her final game as a Trojan with 10 points, four rebounds and three steals and was a thorn in North Miami’s side for much of the night. North Miami also did a tremendous job covering Trojan leading scorer Hannah Wanemacher, holding her to seven points on just three field goal attempts. Wanemacher came into the night averaging 14 points per game.
“They did a good job on Hannah,” Heckaman said, whose club closes out at 10-13 overall. “They stayed on her, they frustrated her. I felt even with that going on, we were still doing what we needed to maintain the lead. But then we got impatient and did things that gave away the lead.
“We didn’t give up a field goal to them until the last two minutes of the second half and it’s because we get antsy and anxious and don’t rotate to the right spots all of a sudden on the last couple of plays. Then we give up a couple shots we shouldn’t have.”
Bolser led North Miami with 10 points and four boards. Tims and Emma Grant each finished with six points.
North Miami (11-12) will face South Central (18-5) in the second semi-final, following the LaCrosse (13-9) against Argos (19-3) matchup in game one.
Argos reached the semis by smothering Culver, 46-19, in Tuesday’s first game.
The Dragons held the Cavaliers without a point for over 12 game minutes beginning with 1:30 in the second quarter that stretched into the middle of the fourth quarter.
Valerie Rospopo led Argos with 19 points, all of them coming in the first half, and Macee Strycker added 13 points. Argos played without star guard Courtney Dunlap who was out with the flu. Culver had Thea Bergerson score 10 points and Marisa Howard finish with seven points.