EASTLAKE—North’s one-two punch of Abby Carter and Avril Drew is sure to give any opponent fits this season.
On Saturday, that dynamic duo combined for 40 points but North also had several other players make key plays in a 59-38 conference win over visiting Madison.
“It’s nice to have a little better balance,” said North coach Paul Force. “We got 8-10 points out of our posts today, which is nice. We pretty much tell them they have to rebound and execute and when they score it’s a bonus. The more threats that you have to plan for, the more difficult it is. We preach literally every day, to all of them, that they all have to consider themselves a threat. Teams are going to put a lot of resources into stopping one or two or three kids but we’ve got two other girls out there and you’ve got to be able to make a difference when your number is called.”
Carter scored 14 of her 16 points in the first half as the Rangers built a 34-25 lead. The Blue Streaks focused on shutting her down in the second half—and they were successful as she scored just two points off of free throws—but Drew scored 13 of her game-high 24 in the final 16 minutes and the Rangers had several other players hit big shots to seal their win.
“I thought Alyssa Lavdis did an amazing job on Carter,” said Madison coach Tedd Wagner. “You’re not going to stop her, that’s impossible and that’s why she’s a Division I athlete. In the second half, we focused on getting more help, getting people in the passing lane and trying to take charges. Then she was dishing it outside and they’re making some 3s, so it’s kind of like you pick your poison.”
North’s Dori Siekaniec was one of those players that benefited from the Blue Streaks crashing in on Carter. She hit two of her three 3-pointers in the third quarter and finished with nine points.
Four other Rangers scored in the win.
Madison’s Riley Montagner helped keep the Blue Streaks in the game during the first half. She scored 13 points by driving to the lane and also by stepping out to hit a pair of open 3s.
As the Blue Streaks did with Carter, the Rangers made a halftime adjustment and held Montagner scoreless in the second half.
“We’ve talked about it over the years at North, particularly the last five or six years, because we have been so offensively talented and consistent from (Sam) Pirosko to (Destiny) Leo to Carter and Drew, that we’ve been able to outscore teams a lot,” Force said. “When you talk about North, not a lot of people are mentioning us a defensive juggernaut. That’s something we want to work this year to put a little more of our stamp on the defensive end and to be respected more on defense and tonight, I think we took a step in that direction, especially in the second half.”
Madison had several players contribute—including Elizabeth Bottar with nine and Payton Lewanski with seven—but the Blue Streaks managed to score just 13 points in the final 16 minutes.
North had a lot to do with Madison’s second-half struggles but Wagner also knows his players have to make their own adjustments to counter what the defense is showing.
“Paul Force is an outstanding coach and I know he’s got everything drawn up. We knew all their plays but they ran them, they can still execute them and make something happen,” Wagner said. “A lot of times, when we run our plays, if the other team is starting to take it away a little bit we bail out of it. We have to finish the plays and if that doesn’t work, then we get into it.”
North had some question marks entering the season without Leo, now a member of the Cleveland State program, and through three games the Rangers are 3-0.
“We’ve dealt with a lot of challenges to come out and win three games in six days against some good opponents,” Force said. “They should walk out of here feeling good but at the same time, we’ve got Monday, Wednesday, Saturday next week so we’ve got to move on quickly.”
Madison dropped to 0-3 on the year but the Blue Streaks haven’t had it easy.
Among their first three opponents were two that played in the regional tournament last winter and another that lost in a district championship game.
“Against Perry, I thought we came out like the little sister and we came out and got beat up a little bit,” Wagner said of his team’s season opener. “Today, I think we came out and went toe-to-toe with North. I think we battled them and were physical. They are used to winning and they have outstanding players. They made, I call them hustle plays, we lost by 20 and they probably had 22 points on put-backs. That’s the difference but that’s what winning teams do. I think today was a big step forward. Fire hardens steel and we are in the fire right now. By the end of the year, if we can get through this and keep our head up and start winning some games, I think we’re going to be a very tough out by the end of the year.”