LAKE TWP: With star senior forward McKenna Stephens being double-teamed all night, Lake’s guards found a rhythm from 3-point range and the Blue Streaks downed Norton 58-43 at home on Monday night.
Lake hit eight 3-pointers in all, a good amount for a team normally known for getting the ball to the rim. The Blue Streaks (15-4) led big early on but had their lead chopped to seven points early in the fourth quarter before guards Baylee Hymes and Miranda Diesz nailed back-to-back 3-pointers to close the door on the Panthers (13-7).
“Tonight was good to see with our guys making shots that you gotta pick your poison with the Blue Streaks,” Lake coach Henry Cobb said. “Because if these kids can make their threes like they did tonight … this can be a good team.”
Norton collapsed inside to try to stifle Stephens, Lake’s go-to forward inside the paint, and was willing to let Lake take its shots from the outside. The Blue Streaks made the Panthers pay for it.
“We scouted them, wanted to take away Stephens and let them shoot the three,” Norton coach Brian Miller said. “But give them credit, they hit eight or nine and that’s the difference in the game, those eight or nine extra points.”
Hymes, a junior, led the way, hitting four 3-pointers and scoring 14 points, both highs for the game. Diesz, a senior, finished the night with seven points and had four in the fourth quarter.
Junior Baylen Dyrlund scored 13 points and Stephens ended up with 12.
Stephens also reached the 1,000-point plateau for her career on Monday night on a 15-foot jumper in the second quarter. She’s the seventh girl in Lake basketball history to do so.
“McKenna is a special player,” Cobb said. “I’ve coached for a few years, and a McKenna Stephens comes around maybe once every 15 years. She’s special, she’s made our program very successful for the last three years. And the bigger the game the bigger she plays.”
Stephens led Lake in the first half with 10 points as the Blue Streaks built a double-digit lead and looked comfortable at both ends of the floor. Miller then gave Norton what he called a “spirited halftime speech.”
“We came out and we were tentative, we weren’t following the game plan to get all over Stephens and make her kick it out,” he said. “I told them at halftime that, ‘You aren’t playing Norton basketball. You’re not playing with pride and you’re cheating all your fans out of $6 to come out and watch this. That’s not the type of basketball we play here and that’s not how you’re going to win a district title.’”
Norton responded. Senior Cara Cook scored eight points (two 3-pointers and a layup off of a steal) and senior Jaclyn Fortner scored six points in the third quarter to lead Norton’s charge back. The Panthers drew within seven points, 42-35 by the end of the third quarter.
Then came the two dagger 3-pointers from Hymes and Diesz, and Norton wouldn’t get closer than nine points.
Heading into postseason play, Miller says the key to Norton’s success lies in the effort the Panthers play with heading forward. “When those girls play hard, and play with some intensity, they’re pretty good,” he said. “When we get lackadaisical … we’re susceptible to being beat.”
Ryan Lewis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the high school blog at http://www.ohio.com/preps. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/RyanLewisABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.