Carthage drops tight battle with Olathe North

Jan. 19—PITTSBURG, Kan. — Carthage trailed the entirety of the second half but was never out of the game Friday evening against Olathe North.

The two teams battled down to the wire, and the Eagles eventually claimed a 47-43 win.

Gritty defensive play gave Carthage (6-10) a chance down the stretch.

"I'm really proud of the kids for battling all 32 minutes. We played them last year, and it was the same kind of game," Carthage head coach Scott Moore said.

It was 45-40 in favor of Olathe with about eight seconds to go, and Carthage had just gotten the ball back after the Eagles made one of two free throws.

The Tigers came down the floor quickly, and Maggie Boyd fired a pass to Lexa Youngblood on the wing. Youngblood took one dribble and buried a 3-pointer to make it 45-43 with 3.1 seconds to go.

The Eagles drew up an inbound play to pass the ball along the baseline from one player to another who were both out of bounds and then send the first inbound passer down floor streaking for a breakaway layup.

The play worked perfectly. The pass was a little ahead of Rhema Stemmons, but she was able to keep it in play, and the clock would have run out.

But with a miscue at the scorer's table, the clock ran out before the inbound pass ever made it downcourt. This led to a replay of the inbound play.

The next time the Eagles just passed it in to Asia Lee, and she was fouled. Lee made both free throws and iced the game.

"We keep having a lull in our shooting, and that's really our deficit right now," Moore said. "If we hit one three in the second (quarter) and one three in the third and we win that game."

The Tigers made two 3-pointers in the first, second and fourth quarters but couldn't get one to fall in the third. Coach Moore added that once the shooting gets more consistent, his team will be able to climb to the next level.

"I thought we played great defensively," Olathe North head coach Alonzo Williams said. "The shooters got loose late and hit a couple threes, that's how they got back in it. ... But I thought our girls fought tonight."

Carthage's defense is its backbone. Moore admitted the team doesn't practice on that much because the team is already so good at it. He credits the hard work and hustle for the quality of play on that side of the ball. Carthage doesn't have much size and even features a 5-foot-tall player in Ashlynn Brust, who is a key part of the team. The one thing coach wants to see improve is rebounding on defense to allow fewer second-chance opportunities.

"One of the things that is nice is we can switch 1 through 5 (positions) on a screen," Moore said. "Lexa, our one post player, can defend a guard off the dribble. Ash, our smallest player, can bang down low with a post for the five seconds it takes for us to rotate."

Olathe was leading 35-27 with 2:37 remaining in the third quarter. It was working the clock down by running a dribble-handoff offense beyond the 3-point line. After burning more than a minute off the clock, Carthage's Lexa Youngblood committed a foul — the team's fourth of the quarter. That put the Eagles one foul away from getting automatic free throws the rest of the period.

The offense continued, but this time Lauren Choate was able to jump a short-range pass and race to the other end with it. She was fouled and made both free throws to make it 35-29.

Lee showed off her abilities with the ball in her hands by making a couple dribble moves and getting around her defender and converting a layup to get Olathe's lead back to 8 points at 37-29.

"She's an elite shooter. But she hasn't been hitting a lot of shots lately," Williams said. "I told her, 'Honey, you have to get downhill.' Today, she was superb getting downhill and handling the ball. She's also an unselfish player."

Right before the end of the quarter, the Tigers' Maggie Boyd drew a foul and made one of two attempts at the line to make it 37-30 entering the final quarter of play.

Carthage found itself down 11 in the third, but a 3-pointer from Youngblood made it 41-33 and recharged the offense. The made shot also led to a timeout by coach Williams to talk over the defensive plan in the final 4:32 of the game.

The Tigers didn't let that get them out of sync. They went on to score the next 7 points with five free throws — two from Boyd, two from Youngblood and one from Choate — and a layup by Jaidyn Brunnert to make it 41-40. Brunnert's basket came with a little more than a minute left.

But the Eagles responded when Stemmons finished a tough layup that was well-contested to get her team a little cushion.

Moore took a timeout with 42.5 seconds left. The timeout led to trying to get one of his shooters open beyond the arc. The Tigers passed it around the key and eventually Choate took a shot from near the corner but it was long and came off the backboard on the far side right into the hands of Lee.

Lee was fouled and added a free throw to put Olathe up 44-40 with 27 seconds left. Carthage called another timeout.

Another triple was missed by the Tigers and an offensive rebound led to Choate attacking the basket but missing a tough finger-roll layup.

"They're (Carthage) a good team. They're very well disciplined. They're scrappy, and they don't give you anything easy," Williams said.

Carthage had four players score the ball and they were all near double figures with Youngblood going over 10 with 15. Choate added 10; Brunnert, 9; and Boyd, 9.

Lee scored 27 of the Eagles' 47 points to carry the bulk of the offensive work.