KNOX - Determining the difference between a good team and a great team can sometimes come down to how said team handles itself in uncomfortable situations.
The North Clarion girls' basketball team showed is mettle Monday night (Jan. 13) on the road against Keystone.
The Panthers did everything they could to slow the pace of the game and in turn slow the Wolves potent offense but North Clarion adjusted and ground out a 48-39 win.
"I didn't think we played our best game tonight," North Clarion head coach Terry Dreihaup said. "I thought we handled the ball well, I thought we handled ourselves well and I thought we played good defense. I was really happy with the way we played."
A key to the North Clarion win was some nifty passing from Abby Gatesman and Mackenzie Bauer down the stretch as Gatesman and Bauer were able to fire passes to Haley Sherman and Trinity Thompson in the low post for crucial layups after the Panthers had cut the North Clarion lead to six points midway through the fourth quarter.
"We talked about at halftime how (Keystone) was overplaying us on defense," North Clarion head coach Terry Dreihaup said. "We told them. All you have to do is penetrate, a little and a girl will come off of our girl (in the post) and she will be wide-open.'"
The win kept North Clarion perfect with an 11-0 overall record. As this issue went to press, the Wolves were scheduled to host Moniteau yesterday (Jan. 15).
Gatesman and Sherman each scored in double-digits with Gatesman amassing 16 points, 10 rebounds, three assists, two steals and one block while Sherman totaled 13 points, five rebounds and two blocks.
Thompson added nine points, 12 boards and three assists.
North Clarion opened up an 8-0 lead in the first 2:48 of game time with Gatesman connecting on three layups while Thompson deposited a layup.
Thompson assisted on all three of Gatesman's buckets while Thompson scored her basket on a pass from Sherman.
The Panthers' game plan was to slow the pace and milk the clock on their possessions but Keystone came up empty on five-straight possessions in the opening three minutes. Moreover, the Panthers couldn't secure the offensive rebounds on their misses so Keystone got no second chance opportunities.
The Panthers' Emily Lauer snapped the Keystone offensive drought when she drained a 3-pointer at the 4:49 mark of the frame.
Lauer finished as the game-high scorer with 24 points.
Mackenzie Bauer answered for the Wolves on the subsequent North Clarion drive when she took a pass from Gabby Schmader and connected on a layup stretching the North Clarion lead to 10-3 with 4:16 remaining in the frame.
With 3:12 remaining in the frame, Lauer was fouled on a layup attempt. Lauer sank both free throws cutting the North Clarion lead to five points.
The Panthers had an opportunity to trim the Wolves' lead even further but Keystone's Natalie Bowser came up empty on a pair of free throws at the 4:07 mark.
Lauer's two free throws would be the last Keystone points of the period. Sherman went 1-of-2 from the charity stripe while Gatesman connected on a layup in the final seconds of the frame as North Clarion took a 13-5 lead into the quarter break.
Keystone connected on just 1-of-11 shots from the field in the period.
The Wolves' Gwen Siegel rattled home a layup on the Wolves first possession of the second period stretching the North Clarion lead to 15-5.
The Panthers responded with layups from Maddie Dunlap and Lauer on consecutive possessions as Keystone trimmed the North Clarion lead to seven points with 5:09 remaining in the half.
Maddie Dunlap had eight points and five rebounds for Keystone.
North Clarion turned the ball over on its following possession but the Panthers couldn't capitalize as their possession came up empty.
The Wolves didn't come up empty on their next possession as Gatesman buried a 3-pointer at the 3:04 mark of the frame extending the North Clarion lead to 19-9.
However, Lauer answered with a 3-pointer for the Panthers. Keystone forced a turnover on the following Wolves' possession which led to a layup from Maddie Dunlap trimming the North Clarion lead to five points with 1:08 remaining in the half.
Sherman was fouled on the Wolves final possession of the half. Sherman made both free throws to push North Clarion's lead to 21-14 at the half.
Gatesman opened the third quarter with a 3-pointer. Gatesman's 3-pointer kick-started a 6-0 run by the Wolves. Thompson provided the other three points for the Wolves as she recorded a layup and a 1-for-2 effort from the foul line.
Keystone countered the North Clarion scoring spurt with a 6-0 run of its own cutting the Wolves' lead to 27-20 with 3:35 remaining in the frame.
Maddie Dunlap connected on a pair of baseline jumpers in the span while Lauer drove for a layup.
The Wolves answered with a layup from Sherman pushing their lead back to nine points. After an empty possession from the Panthers, Bauer converted a layup stretching the North Clarion lead to 31-20 with 1:34 remaining in the period.
The Panthers' Alyssa Dunlap connected on a midrange jumper on the following Keystone possession cutting the North Clarion lead to nine points.
Siegel had an opportunity to stretch the Wolves' lead to 11 when she was fouled on a put back layup attempt just as time expired in the quarter. Siegel missed both free throws leaving the North Clarion lead at 31-22.
Lauer opened the fourth quarter with a driving layup cutting the North Clarion lead to seven points less than a minute into the quarter.
Bauer was fouled on the following Wolves' possession. Bauer missed both free throws and Danae Hurrelbrink came down with the rebound for the Panthers.
Keystone got the ball up court to Lauer who was fouled on a layup attempt. Lauer made the first free throw but missed the second and Gatesman came down with the rebound.
On the ensuing North Clarion possession, Gatesman fired a pass to Thompson who was in the low post on the weak side of the Wolves' offensive set and Thompson buried the uncontested layup stretching the North Clarion lead back to eight points with 6:11 remaining in regulation.
Thompson was fouled on the following North Clarion possession. Thompson missed both charity shots and Alyssa Dunlap pulled down the board for the Panthers.
Alyssa Dunlap finished with five rebounds and five points for Keystone.
Lauer converted a layup on the following Panther possession slicing the North Clarion lead to 33-27 with 4:49 remaining in the contest.
The six-point difference would be as close as the Panthers would get as the Wolves went on an 8-0 run over the next two minutes of game time. Gatesman opened the splurge with a pair of free throws. The Panthers came up empty on their following possession and the Wolves responded with Gatesman firing a pass to Sherman in the post. Sherman rattled home the layup to extend the North Clarion lead to 10.
Gatesman made a steal on the subsequent Keystone possession and Sherman got the ball in the post where she was fouled. Sherman made both free throws.
Thompson capped the North Clarion surge with a layup as the Wolves pushed their lead to 41-27 with 2:44 remaining in the game.
Both Alyssa Dunlap and Lauer each converted an old-fashioned 3-pointer for the Panthers down the stretch but it wasn't enough as the Wolves held on for the 48-39 win.
A key to North Clarion sealing the win was their proficiency from the free-throw line down the stretch as the Wolves 9-of-10 from the charity stripe in the final 4:23 of the game.
The loss dropped Keystone to 7-5 overall.
"I was really happy with the way our girls battled the whole game," Keystone head coach Josh Almes said. "Unfortunately we just couldn't get over that last six-point hump."