On Thursday night in Gas City, the Mississinewa Indians did not just lose their season opener against Northfield.
They may have lost much more.
Senior guard Darah Watson suffered an apparent knee injury in the first quarter, and issues in both the rebounding and turnover departments resulted in a 57-40 defeat.
Mississinewa struggled to hang on to the ball for most of the evening, committing 22 turnovers, many of which were unforced, and were outrebounded by a significant 40-21 margin. With a lack of size due to the departures of both Caily and Carly Bolser, the Norse took advantage, scoring on a plethora of putback layups and dominating the glass from start to finish.
With less than 10 seconds remaining in the first quarter, Watson drove to the hoop and went up for a shot. However, the whistle was blown for a foul, and Watson came down on her leg awkwardly, crumpling to the hardwood.
After laying on the floor for several minutes, Watson had to be carried off the floor, clearly in immense pain. She had issues with the same knee in the past, fracturing it a year-and-a-half prior, and finally seemed to be completely healthy after playing through her ailments last season.
Losing Watson, Mississinewa’s top defender, a blossoming offensive threat, and a beloved teammate, would be catastrophic. Now, all that they and Head Coach Laura Friday can do is hope that the injury was not as bad as it looked.
“I’m not sure exactly what it is, but I’m praying and hoping that it’s something small that we can bounce back from,” Friday said. “You could tell tonight that the team was a little deflated when she went out. She’s our leader. She’s our vocal leader. She’s our scoring leader. That was tough. I love the kid, and I shed a couple of tears not knowing what’s going on, but hopefully we will figure it out tonight and go from here.”
After a rough first quarter in which the Indians only scored nine points, shot three-of-10 from the floor, turned the ball over six times, and suffered the shock of a potentially devastating injury, they played excellent basketball in the first five minutes of the second stanza. Alayna Webb scored eight of the Indians’ first 10 points, including a pair of triples, to cut the Norse lead to 19-17. Marley Starnes followed with her first basket of the game to tie the contest at 19-19.
The two teams traded baskets to make it 21-21 with 3:16 to go, but the Norse, behind four points from Kyra Kennedy, ended the second quarter on an 8-0 run, taking a 29-21 lead at halftime.
Northfield put the game away in the third quarter, outscoring the Indians 19-7 and knocking down eight field goals in the process. Kennedy, Emma Hoover, Addi Baker, and Kenzie Stout all crashed the basket, and used their superior length to come away with rebounds and create easy scoring chances. Additionally, the Indians continued to turn the ball over at an alarming rate, coughing it up six more times.
“We’re really small, and we hit it home every single day at practice,” Friday said. “I think the jitters played a part in that tonight. It was our first game, and it was their second game, so they had a little bit of an advantage. We have to cut down on our turnovers and make sure we rebound every night, because we are going to be smaller every, single time we step on the court.”
Northfield kept the pedal down in the fourth quarter, leading by as many as 22 points before settling for the 17-point triumph.
Baker led the Norse with 21 points, while Hoover scored 20 and added nine rebounds. Kennedy collected a double-double with 11 points and 10 boards.
Mississinewa shot just 14-of-41 from the field (34.1 percent) and a paltry four-of-19 (21 percent) from beyond the arc.
“We just didn’t hit shots,” Friday said. “We missed a lot of shots, so that’s something we need to work on in practice and these kids needs to come in and shoot after.”
Mia Catey was one of the few bright spots, finishing with 15 points and eight rebounds, while Webb collected nine points for the Indians.
Throughout the contest, Catey showcased the dominant player she can be when she sets her mind to it. Going forward, Friday hopes that she will continue to trend upwards as the season progresses.
“Before this game, we knew how much she had to give,” Friday said. “We know what she is capable of. She’s such a phenomenal athlete, and if we can get her to be more aggressive and less passive every single night, she’s going to be just fine.”