WESTFIELD TWP. — The margin between first-place Norton and the Cloverleaf girls basketball team on Wednesday was razor thin.
While the Panthers walked out with a 47-46 Portage Trail Conference Metro Division victory, they did so knowing the Colts gave them everything they wanted.
“Tonight was definitely a building block to where you want to get in the future,” Cloverleaf coach John Carmigiano said. “I can’t say that I remember ever being prouder of a team on any given night than what happened tonight. Knowing that it would take everything in you to compete and then to see them actually willing to give everything like that, it was very impressive to me.”
Leading at intermission and at the end of three quarters, Cloverleaf (8-7, 6-3) certainly played the part of PTC spoiler before experience and want-to by Norton (12-3, 9-0) won out.
The Colts survived a disastrous first quarter where they gave up a 15-1 run and turned the ball over 11 times. They even took the lead on a basket by Cam Tripp (8 points) before the break after going on a 20-6 run of their own.
“We’ve been in a funk and we knew we had to come out big for this game,” said Cloverleaf center Mckenna Jordan, who had 14 points and 15 rebounds. “We grinded it out and decided, ‘No, we’re not going to lose. We’re going to compete,’ and we did. We came out strong and battled until 0.8 seconds.
“We were getting rebounds and getting quick steals. They were working hard, too, but I feel like we had a grit tonight that we hadn’t had in a while. It was nice to play with. Honestly, even though this is a loss, it’s momentum to know that we can play at a really great level and not play down with other teams. It’s awesome to know how great we are and how much team chemistry we have.”
With four senior starters in its lineup, Norton showed just a bit more patience in the end.
Down 38-34 with 5:55 remaining, the Panthers went on an 11-2 run to take a five-point lead with 1:19 remaining.
Hosey (15 points, 10 rebounds) led the charge and wound up scoring her 1,000th career point late to keep the Colts at bay.
Up by as many as five down the stretch, the Panthers were able to hold off Cloverleaf to keep a stranglehold on the league race.
“We showed that it really doesn’t matter what is going on in the game, as long as we play Norton basketball,” said Hosey, who has 1,003 points. “This is just a steppingstone towards our big goal. We’re very capable of this when we’re down big. We’re not a ‘Take it down the floor nice and slow team.’ We’re a, ‘Get it going team.’ We don’t have time to sit around and let everything happen.”
That’s not to say Cloverleaf didn’t have a chance to make things even more interesting down the stretch.
Maddie Boltz (9 points) scored with 13.8 seconds remaining and was fouled with the score 45-44, but missed from the charity stripe.
The Colts shot 7-for-17 from the line or things could have been even tighter, though Norton was just 12-for-29. In the fourth quarter, Cloverleaf was 0-for-4 and the Panthers were 7-for-14.
“We definitely need to work on keeping our composure in certain moments, but I think that’s the toughest challenge we’ll face all year, too,” Carmigiano said. “We can only create so much pressure, and when you’re not going far into your bench, it’s hard to maintain the defensive pressure that you want to.”
The Norton junior varsity beat Cloverleaf 46-33. Brenna Holliday and Laurell Brown paced the Colts with nine points apiece.
Norton 47, Cloverleaf 46
NORTON 15 6 11 15 — 47
CLOVERLEAF 7 16 11 12 — 46
Norton— Madison Burns 2-0-4, Kelsey Hosey 5-5-15, Nicole Lester 2-0-4, Bailey Shutsa 2-1-6, Bryana Housley 3-0-6, Kaylee Murawski 3-2-8, Logan Favor 0-4-4, Kylie Lewis 0-0-0, Samantha Bucha 0-0-0, Riley Ballinger 0-0-0, Gabriella Destefano 0-0-0. TOTALS: 17-12-47.
Cloverleaf — Maddie Boltz 4-0-9, Tori Smith 4-0-8, Jenna Oliver 3-1-7, Mckenna Jordan 6-2-14, Cam Tripp 2-4-8, Bailey Freeland 0-0-0, Sarasa Sivapatham 0-0-0, Meagan Scheck 0-0-0. TOTALS: 19-7-46.
3-point goals— Shutsa, Boltz, Rebounds— Norton 35 (Hosey 10), Cloverleaf 38 (Jordan 15). Assists— Norton 12 (Housley 6), Cloverleaf 10 (Oliver 5). Records— Norton (12-3, 9-0) Cloverleaf (8-7, 6-3). Juniorvarsity— Norton 46, Cloverleaf 33.