Norfolk’s defense stole the show on Thursday night – in the truest sense of the word.
The Panthers had seven steals in the first quarter alone as part of 13 first-half sales from Columbus, and the Norfolk Girls eventually exploded for a 20-2 start that resulted in a 55:43 win.
In the boys’ game, Columbus used an 11-2 start, as the explorers never left the Panthers 67:64 behind.
Norfolk’s girls did a quick job of getting past a four-game skid as the guests went scoreless for 9 minutes and 41 seconds in the first half – and the offensive picked up speed early in the second quarter.
“It was very important to get off to a good start as we played some tough games in a row against some really good teams,” said Norfolk coach Jared Oswald. “It was only important to start early for our trust. I thought our girls came out and played aggressively. I thought that was the big difference at the beginning of the game. “
Chelsea Strom hit from the inside, and then Erin Schwanebeck followed with two consecutive buckets – including a nifty steal, drive, and stop – and then rose strongly for two – before Strom hit a long two from the opposite corner to 18-2 lead – all in the first 1:57 of the second quarter. Hailey Kleinschmit, who together with Strom scored 12 points at game height, followed over a minute later with a bucket for a 20-2 lead with 4:44 in the first half.
That completed an 18-0 run with the Panthers holding the Discoverers goalless for 9:41, and Columbus never got closer than 12 for the remainder of the first half.
“I thought we had to set the tone with our defensive intensity and our ball pressure,” said Oswald. “This is something we thought against a team like Columbus, whose guards are a little younger and a little less experienced, that maybe we could get them to get into what they wanted to get into (on the offensive ). “
Although she had no points, Karly Kalin made her presence felt with six steals.
“Karly Kalin sets the tone with her defensive pressure, but I thought all of our girls did a good job getting involved and making it tough,” said Oswald.
Columbus continued at the top, and the Discoverers hit single digits by the end of the third quarter when Addie Kudron, who led visitors with 11 points, turned a steal into a 1:44 layup in the quarter.
Norfolk then rushed on to stay.
Kleinschmit turned a steal into a layup, and then tossed the ball under her hand at Makenna Skiff to get a basket off the block. Strom found Tessa Gall for a critical 3-pointer five seconds ahead in the third quarter that led the Panthers 43-28 into the fourth quarter. Norfolk stayed in control the rest of the way, leading by at least 11 points for the final eight minutes.
“Especially with the way they played offensively in the second half, we could only answer and keep the lead where it was instead of having to extend it in the second half,” said Oswald. “It’s great to be able to put that lead into halftime and feel like you have some confidence.”
THE BOYS GAME was dramatic from the start when Columbus received two free throw attempts due to a technical test against Norfolk during the warm up. That left the panthers behind and they never caught up with the explorers in the entire game.
“Our mindset, our focus wasn’t there in the beginning,” said Norfolk coach Matt Shelsta.
In a game where both teams hit double the bonus in the middle of the fourth quarter, Norfolk almost caught up in the last minute.
After the Panthers got 26.8 seconds ahead of 66-60, Columbus attempted to catch up with the ball by handing it sideways to a teammate outside the boundaries of the baseline. However, the Explorers were whistled for a five second injury and gave the ball back to Norfolk. Just more than three seconds later, Kallan Herman – who led all the players with 28 points – was fouled by Garrett Esch. When he went to the bank, Esch whistled for a technician who gave Herman two more free-throw attempts. Herman hit 3 of 4 free throws and then Norfolk had 66-63 possession, 23.4 seconds back. A missed 3-pointer resulted in Columbus getting the rebound and drawing a foul, but the Explorers missed both free throws by 8.7 seconds. On the ricochet, Colton Price was fouled and he went on the line with 7.7 seconds. He made the first and purposely missed the second after a break to give Norfolk a chance to tie the 66-64 gap or take the lead. But the ball went beyond the limits of a Norfolk player and Ernest Hausmann was fouled 2.8 seconds to play. Hausmann made the second of two free throws for Columbus, and Norfolk’s attempt to play the buzzer halfway failed.
“We fought our way back and in the end gave ourselves the chance to win there,” said Shelsta.
Norfolk were down 11-2 in less than two minutes, but the Panthers hit a Herman 3 with 4:40 in the first half, 30-26. That was the next Norfolk to come up to the last minute.
“It hasn’t been a good start for us and we have to challenge them to win possession,” said Shelsta. “We didn’t do a great job in the first half and they took their lead.”
Columbus 2 9 17 15-43
Norfolk 10 17 16 12-55
COLUMBUS (3-11): Carly Gaedeke 3 2-3 8; Ellie Thompson 2 3-6 8; Addie Kudron 50-111; Elena Batenhorst 2 2-4 6; Logan Kapels 1 0-0 2; Tayler Brown 2 0-0 4; Jaleigh Adams-Tuls 1 0-0 2; Addi Duranski 0 2-2 2nd overall: 16 9-16 43.
NORFOLK (6-9): Erin Schwanebeck 3 2-4 8; Chelsea Stream 5 2-2 12; Hailey Kleinschmit 5 2-2 12; Agdaly Sanchez 3 1-1 7; Nealy Brummond 2 0-2 5; Tessa Gall 1 0-0 3; Makenna Skiff 3 2-4 8th Total: 22 9-15 55.
Columbus 23 21 11 12 – 67
Norfolk 12 19 17 16-64
COLUMBUS (1-10): Tadan Bell 8 0-0 24; Ashton LaPointe 1 1-2 3; Ean Luebbe 6 4-6 17; Brody Mickey 2 0-0 4; Sam Kwapnioski 2 0-0 5; Garrett Esch 1 2-8 4; Ernest Hausmann 3 3-5 10. Total: 23 10-21 67.
NORFOLK (4-11): Shon King 2 4-6 8; Isaac Heimes 0 1-2 1; Kallan Herman 9 6-8 28; Colton Price 1 1-3 4; Reed Stoltz 6 0-3 12; Colby James 4 0-0 11th overall: 22 12-22 64.