For the first eight minutes of the Mississinewa Indian’s season opener against the Northfield Norsemen on Thursday night, nerves and early season jitters affected their play.
When they we’re not turning the ball over, they struggled to put the ball in the basket. The Norse, on the other hand, took advantage of Mississinewa’s miscues, opening the game on an 11-2 run before taking a 15-6 lead after the first quarter.
From that moment on, however, the Indians took control, putting on a clinic on both ends of the floor.
Behind an incredible defensive effort in the final three quarters, a tremendous outing from senior Caily Bolser, and positive contributions from every girl on the floor, the Indians opened the 2019-2020 season with a victory, defeating Northfield by a score of 51-33.
“They are a really good team. They are well coached, and they work hard. Our girls just worked harder,” Friday said after the game. “I was so proud of how they worked after they calmed down, after that first quarter.”
The Indians turned the ball over eight times in the opening quarter, but once they got their sea legs under them, they settled in and found their rhythm. In the final three quarters, the Indians turned the ball over just nine times.
“We just needed to calm down,” Friday said. “We had two players out there who hadn’t really started a varsity game, so their nerves were a little high. Once we started going back to what we know and what we focus on every single day, they kind of settled in and started playing Tribe Life basketball.”
The second quarter was a completely different story. The Indians opened the stanza on a 13-0 run and did not allow the Norse to score for the first 5:22 of the period.
Two well-executed pick-and-rolls to Caily Bolser, combined with a field goal from Riley McKee, cut the Norse lead to 15-12. A triple from Alayna Webb tied the game at 15-15 and a basket from Carly Bolser gave the Indians a lead – one they would not relinquish.
After trailing by six, the Indians outscored the Norse 20-4 in the second quarter, taking a 26-19 lead at halftime and shooting 8-for-11 from the field in the process.
The third quarter was more of the same, as the Indians knocked down five of their nine shot attempts.
The Norse cut the Mississinewa lead to five on two occasions, but each time the Indians had an answer. Caily Bolser was an unstoppable force underneath the basket, seemingly scoring at will against Northfield’s much smaller lineup, while Webb and Darah Watson hit timely threes to keep the Norse at bay.
Webb’s trey at the end of the period pushed the Mississinewa advantage to double digits at 40-29, and the Indians led by between 15 to 20 points the rest of the way.
Mississinewa closed the game out with authority, allowing just four points in the fourth quarter.
After giving up 15 points in the first quarter, the Indians allowed just 18 points and six field goals in the final three.
“Defense turns into offense,” Friday said. “That’s what happened here tonight. Once we started playing our defense, then we just turned them over and got some points. Defense is our go-to. We have kids out here that want to play defense and work really, really hard on defense. I’m proud of how they played defensively and offensively.”
Caily Bolser began her senior season with a bang, recording a double-double with 20 points and 13 rebounds to go along with five blocks. She was assertive in the paint all evening, making life difficult for the Northfield defenders.
“Caily is amazing,” Friday said. “I feel that she is underrated sometimes. She works hard in practice. She’s a leader. She outworks players, and that’s how she gets her points.”
Webb finished with 11 points, while Watson collected 10 points, six assists, and three steals. McKee posted six points, five rebounds, two assists, and a steal, while Carly Bolser rounded out the scoring with four points, 10 rebounds and two blocks.
It was a total team effort on Wednesday, and that played a big role in their victory over a team that reached the semi-state a season ago.
“[Our opponents] have to choose who they don’t guard, and if they don’t guard that person, that person is going to step up,” Friday said. “We have a lot of players who can step up and take on a scoring role or a rebounding role. We have a lot of options this year, and I think that differs from years in the past.”
Friday emerged victorious in her first ever game as a varsity head coach, and though it’s only one game, the Indians showed that they are going to be a group to be reckoned with throughout the season.
“It means so much,” Friday said of earning her first win. “I love being with these girls, and really that’s what makes it even better – that I got to do it with these girls and this coaching staff. That’s why I’m here. I’m here because of these girls, and it feels great. I’m excited for the next one.”
For the Norse, Emma Hoover finished with 15 points and two rebounds, while Kearston Stout came away with eight points and six rebounds.