By Mark Carpenter –
It was certainly not a “Popcorn State” that came to North Adams High School on Saturday, Nov. 25 to provide the opposition for the Lady Devils’ 2017-18 season opener. The North Adams girls welcomed to town the Miami Trace Lady Panthers, a team who won 24 games last season and who played their last game on the floor of the Schottenstein Center in the OHSAA Division II state semi-finals. The Lady Panthers lost that game but return three of five starters for this season, including forward Tanner Bryant, who has already signed to play college ball at Division I Florida Gulf Coast.
With that said, the Lady Devils are pretty talented themselves and Saturday’s game brought coaches and scouts from all over the area to check out two of the top hoops squads in action. The Lady Panthers showed why they are part of the pre-season state rankings in Division II and the Lady Devils showed the scouts observing them that they are a team that is going to get after it hard for 32 minutes non-stop, the way a Rob Davis-coached team is expected to perform. In the end, it was the Lady Panthers grabbing an early lead and then fighting off all the North Adams comeback attempts to claim the season opener by a final score of 55-39.
“We just didn’t rebound well or take care of the basketball,” said Coach Davis. “Even with that, we were still in the game late, but we missed a lot of chances.”
Trace scored six of the game’s first eight points before the Lady Devils rallied behind senior Lakyn Hupp, who scored all eight first quarter points for her team. With their lead at 13-8, the Lady Panthers finished the first period on a 7-0 run and extended their advantage to 20-8 after the first eight minutes of action.
Miami Trace stayed “el fuego” as the second stanza began, getting back to back treys from Victoria Fliehman and Bryant, before North Adams’ Grace McDowell stopped the 13-0 run with a jumper at the 5:22 mark of the second quarter. The Lady Panthers continued to build on their lead as it hit its highest point of the night at 30-10 with 4:31 left in the half, but something about that huge deficit lit a fire under the home team.
The Lady Devils finished out the first half on a 9-2 run, getting two free throws from Delaney Harper, a three-pointer from McDowell, a pair of Hupp free throws, and another bucket from McDowell. Bryant broke the run with a late jumper but the home team went to the locker room with a little more spark in their step, but still trailing by a score of 32-19.
The story of the game at the end of the first half and the beginning of the second was the North Adams defense, which held the Lady Panthers to just two points over a seven-minute span, but on the offensive end were just not able to take full advantage of the opportunity. The Lady Devils opened the third quarter with a Delaney Harper jumper and two free throws from her sister Avery, her first points of the night as the Miami Trace defense did a smothering job of keeping her away from the ball. That cut the lead to single digits at 32-23 but buckets by Fliehman and Bryant pushed the Miami Trace lead back out to 36-23. A McDowell three out of the corner cut the gap back to 10 but another Fliehman score left the Lady Devils still staring at a 38-26 deficit after three quarters.
“You can’t waste opportunities against good teams like that,” said Coach Davis. “They are so athletic but I thought we played hard and we talk a lot about being mentally tough and playing through mistakes instead of compounding them.”
The talented Lady Panthers continued to bolster their lead as the final stanza began, scoring four straight to make it 42-26, but the spunky Lady Devils got baskets from Hupp and Madee Shipley, and then a Shipley three to keep things interesting at 44-33 with 3:40 to play.
A basket and two free throws from Avery Harper got the Trace lead back down to single digits at 45-37 with 2:01 remaining, but from that point on, the Lady Panthers put their foot down, hitting eight consecutive free throws down the stretch, six of those by Bryant, as they held on for the hard-fought 55-39 victory.
“I was pleased with our effort all night,” said Coach Davis. “That showed our heart and we won’t play too many better teams that this season. No loss is a good loss, but tonight shows us where we are at and what we need to work on. We’ll learn more form this than we would beating someone by 60 points.”
The victorious Lady Panthers were paced by two girls in double figures, Bryant with 22 and Fliehman with 19, a duo that is sure to cause havoc for many Miami Trace opponents down the road.
The Lady Devils also placed two players in double figures, Laky Hupp with 12 and Grace McDowell with 8. With a bloody jersey proving how tight the defense was on her, Avery Harper still managed 8 points, all in the second half, while pulling down 8 rebounds to lead the team. Uncharacteristically for the Lady Devils, they turned the ball over 26 times, which will always put a serious blow in any comeback attempt.
With the opener out of the way, the 0-1 Lady Devils will be back in action on Thursday, Nov. 30, when they host Ripley in their first Southern Hills Athletic Conference match up of the year. On Saturday, Dec. 2, North Adams will be out of conference again, traveling to Southeastern Ross for a 1 p.m. tip off.
20 12 6 17 –55
8 11 7 13 –39
M. Trace (55): Wolffe 0 2-2 2, Lovett 2 1-2 5, McDonald 3 0-1 7, Fliehman 7 4-6 19, Bryant 6 8-8 22, Team 18 15-19 55.
N. Adams (39): Hupp 4 4-4 12, M.Shipley 2 0-0 5, McDowell 4 0-0 10, D. Harper 1 2-2 4, A. Harper 2 4-5 8, Team 13 10-11 39.
M. Trace (4): Bryant 2, Fliehman 1, McDonald 1
N. Adams (3): McDowell 2, M. Shipley 1