ORION -- Already up 17 at halftime of Thursday's West Central North girls' basketball opener, Orion looked ready to run away and hide after scoring the first six points of the third quarter.|
However, the Rockridge Rockets didn't get that memo, as they turned up the heat defensively and started to find the range with the ball in their hands, closing that 23-point deficit down to seven when reserve guard Devin Hasson scored to beat the third-period buzzer.
The Rockets' comeback bid continued into the fourth quarter as they closed the gap to one point, but a timely 3-pointer by Orion's Baillie McCunn helped the Chargers hold off one last Rockridge rally for a 48-47 victory.
"I saw an open shot, went with it and took it,'' said McCunn, who knocked down four 3-pointers en route to a game-high 18 points and seven rebounds. "We felt that the guards had to step up and show our heart offensively.''
Even with the loss, the Rockets (2-5) showed plenty of heart, as personified by junior guard Beth Meier. Posting 14 points, five rebounds and three steals, Meier helped ignite a rally that begin with Rockridge down 37-14 early in the third period.
With Molly Wright and Michaela Stoneking (10 rebounds) each adding key buckets, the Rockets closed the third with an 18-2 run.
"Beth has played well the last couple of nights, and she got things going (Thursday),'' said Rockridge coach Shawn Strachan. "She's not the most finesse player in the world, but she does a nice job of hustling.''
Baskets by Miranda Potter and Taylor Cullen had the Rockets down 39-38 with 5:18 left in the game before McCunn stepped up with her crucial 3-pointer. Held to four points through three periods, Orion senior center Cassidy Clark (11 rebounds, nine points) then scored five key points to help the hosts strech their lead to 48-40.
"We need to learn to close games, and we will,'' said Orion coach John McBride, whose 3-2 club was playing its first game in almost two weeks. "We weren't patient; we were throwing the ball all over the place. Shawn gets his kids playing hard, and they played hard and aggressive.''
At the game's outset, McCunn drained a pair of first-quarter treys as the Chargers grabbed a 14-4 lead after one. Sophomore Abby DeBaillie then scored eight of her 10 points in the second quarter to help Orion stretch that lead to 31-14 by halftime.
But once the defense kicked in for Rockridge -- it forced Orion into 16 second-half turnovers -- that's when things started to happen for the Rockets.
"We dug ourselves a hole in the first half, and didn't start the third quarter well,'' said Strachan. "I called a timeout and challenged the girls to battle back, and that's what they did, chipped away a little at a time. This was definitely a team effort, and while it's sad we couldn't get the win out of all that hard work and effort, I'm proud of what they did.''