Second half surge lifts Commodores past Raiders

Photos by Nic Antaya/The Herald
Southridge’s Myah Montgomery passes the ball during Tuesday’s game against Perry Central in Huntingburg. The freshman forward led the way in scoring for the Raiders with 11 points in their 43-39 opening night loss to the Commodores. Southridge led 27-16 at halftime but couldn’t sustain the lead in the second half as Perry Central outscored the Raiders 27-12. For more photos from Tuesday's game, click here.


HUNTINGBURG — For a good bit of Tuesday night’s girls basketball game, the Southridge Raiders looked like a team that was in full control of their fate.

But Perry Central started making a push in the fourth quarter, and did just enough in the final few minutes for the Commodores to steal the game away from the Raiders to the tune of 43-39.

The Commodores were down 33-25 at the end of the third and the Raiders were able to get a couple of scores from sophomore guard Kennedy Nalley and freshman forward Myah Montgomery in order to extend their lead. But Perry Central scored seven straight in order to cut the lead to one point with a little over three minutes left. Sophomore guard Monica Steckler was able to draw a foul and hit both free throws to keep Southridge’s head above water.

But it wouldn’t be enough to keep the team afloat. Senior guard Macey Emmons hit a pull-up jumper to bring the Commodores back within one point of the Raiders and sophomore forward Bree Noland took and finished a drive to the bucket to give Perry Central the lead.

She also hit the following free throw to complete the and-1 play and put the Commodores up 41-39 with less than two minutes left.

Southridge simply wasn’t able to settle down and get a good shot when they needed it as the game came to a close. Senior guard Mady Neukam, who was often the team’s first option in this situation last season, was on the sideline with a cramp in her calf, and the girls kept settling for jump shots when their motion and passing couldn’t create cutting lanes into the paint.

Nalley tried to force a shot inside the paint with about 40 seconds left, but she was met by Noland who blocked her shot out of bounds.

When she tried again after the enusing in bounds pass, Nalley was hassled into a turnover by the Perry Central defenders. The Commodores recovered the ball and held it long enough for senior center Claire Davis to get the final shot of the game, a layup that went up and in just as time expired.

Montgomery led the Raiders with 11 points, while Neukam had nine and Nalley chipped in five.

Emmons led Perry Central with 17, senior Caylyn Peter had 10, and Davis finished with eight.

Southridge Coach Steve Rust had hoped that his team wouldn’t fall into the mental trap of looking at the scoreboard and letting their foot off the gas in the second half, where they were outscored 27-12. But in the end, he thought Perry Central just wanted it more than the Raiders did.

“We had the lead after halftime, and we came out and couldn’t build on that lead,” he said. “We missed a lot of easy shots, and they just played more aggressive than we did. They got after loose balls and did a lot of things.”

Southridge’s Abi Kerkhoff and Perry Central’s Bree Noland jump for a rebound during Tuesday’s game in Huntingburg. For more photos from Tuesday's game, click here.

Southridge did have stretches during the game where they were in control and implementing their game plan to full effect. The shots opened up for them when they were able to get good ball movement in the half court system or get quick rebounds and then get it out to play fast. They also made 14 of 20 shots when they were able to make it to the free throw line after drawing contact.

“For awhile our transition game went well, we were able to get some easy buckets,” said Rust. “Defensively we started in man then went to zone, and the zone shifted momentum to our side.”

But there were other times when it was clear that the team was working through the jitters and early kinks that come at the start of a season. Some shots were rushed, passes weren’t as crisp as could be, and the shot selection left much to be desired at times, particularly from behind the arc.

But through it all the players think that they can learn from a game like this. They can learn how to keep control of a game through all four quarters, and can figure out how to work through the slumps when the shots aren’t falling, especially late in close contests, and do what need to be done to come away with the win.

“We just need to talk to each other. Communication is key to winning those basketball games and keeping those leads,” said junior forward Grace Sickbert.

“Just being in the locker room at the end of that game, we don’t want to feel like this again,” added Neukam. “I think that’s going to motivate us. I think we can make it a good thing.”

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