ELNORA — It wasn’t pretty, but the North Daviess girls basketball team won its seventh game in a row.
The Class A No. 9 Cougars (15-2, 6-0 Southwestern Indiana) defeated Bloomfield (9-8, 4-3) 45-26 Tuesday evening at the Cougar Den behind a combined 40 points from Sabra Smith, Meghan Knepp and Brooke Moore.
Neither team looked ready to play in the game’s opening minutes, as both teams combined for just nine points in the first six minutes of play. Bloomfield seemed to find some momentum as Madison Toon and Alicia Hasler closed the first quarter with back-to-back baskets to give the Cardinals a 9-5 lead.
“We had shots, we just didn’t make them and those are shots we normally make,” said North Daviess coach Ron Knepp. “The kids just battled through and we had our role players step up and make big shots in that first quarter and that helped us keep us close and in striking distance.”
The Cougars found whatever they were lacking in the first quarter and dominated the second eight minutes. The Cougars scored the first 11 points of the quarter behind a 3-pointer from Meghan Knepp, two baskets from Sabra Smith and a layup from Brooke Moore. A Cheyenne Wikle basket cut the North Daviess lead to 16-11 and gave the Cardinals their first points of the quarter with 3:25 to play before halftime. North Daviess close the quarter on a 7-2 run on a three-point play from Moore and baskets from Smith and Knepp to give North Daviess a 23-13 halftime lead.
Coming out of halftime, the first two minutes of the third quarter were reminiscent of the beginning of the game. Hasler split two free throws at the 5:56 mark to cut the North Daviess lead to 23-14. After a North Daviess timeout, Knepp connected on a 3-pointer and then the senior guard split two free throws to push the lead to 27-14.
Kaylee Moody cut the deficit to 11, but that would be the last point for the Cardinals in the quarter. Two more Knepp free throws, followed by five straight points from Smith gave the Cougars a 31-16 lead at the end of the quarter. While the North Daviess offense scored 25 points in the middle two quarters, the Cougar defense allowed just seven points in that 16 minute span in that span.
“Typically the second quarter is our quarter,” Ron Knepp said. “Coming out of halftime we want to win that third quarter — that’s a huge focus for us. We want to start better and we need to start better than we have been the last three games. We need to have a good start to the game and have four quarters together. We need to put together 32 minutes of focus is what we’ve been talking about. Not just eight minutes here or five minutes here. We need 32 minutes of focus.”
The Cougars outscored the Cardinals 11-10 in the final eight minutes to close out the 19-point victory. Smith led North Daviess with 15 points, Knepp had 14, Brooke Moore added 11, Maggie Swartzentruber had three and Makayla Spears had two points.
North Daviess hosts Wood Memorial Thursday for Senior Night as they prepare for the post-season with only three regular season games remaining, which are all at home.
“Wood Memorial is going to put a lot of pressure on us,” Ron Knepp said. “Make or miss they press you the entire game and we have to be strong with the ball. We have to make good passes and sharp cuts. Our passes have to be strong and we have to use ball fakes. That is going to be a huge prep game for our sectional. That pressure that they apply will be huge for us to learn from and get ready for sectional.”