ELDRIDGE — The North Scott girls basketball team earned the 100th win for T.J. Case as coach of the Lancers on Friday night.
But Davenport Assumption did not make it easy.
The Knights fought the second-ranked team in Class 4A for three quarters, but the Lancers got big plays from their key players down the stretch of an eventual 71-51 win in Mississippi Athletic Conference action at The Pit.
The score did not indicate how hard the Knights (1-5 overall, 1-3 MAC) played and made the Lancers earn every bit of their fourth conference win of the season as North Scott also remained unbeaten. Assumption got 22 points and five steals from sophomore Olivia Wardlow and forced 17 turnovers from the hosts, 12 of which were steals.
But the Lancers got 22 points from Presley Case, including 14 in the second half, and Rylie Rucker made some big plays in a key stretch of the late third and early fourth quarters to help North Scott to the win. Brooke Kilborg, Chloe Engelkes and Grace Boffeli also hit some big shots for the winners. Boffeli finished with 12 points and 14 rebounds.
Lauren Herrig's 3-pointer with four seconds left in the third quarter had the visitors in striking distance as North Scott led 48-40 after three quarters. But Kilborg, Engelkes and Case all buried big 3s and Rucker had a pair of steals that led to layups as the hosts eventually stretched the lead to 63-46 with just under four minutes left in the game.
But Rucker gave credit to the Knights for being in an attack mode the entire game.
"Assumption was a lot more aggressive than we were planning on, and we weren't taking it to the basket like we should have, especially in the first half," Rucker said. "We needed to settle in a little sooner than the end of the third quarter. I think we need to come out and play right away instead of taking all the timeouts to get going. It was a good test for us, and it showed us we have come out and play every game even though we are rated second. That really does not matter, and Assumption did not play like a 1-5 team, not one bit."
The Knights had the Lancers almost skittish passing the ball by halftime after forcing 10 turnovers in the first half, six of which were steals. Wardlow along with Herrig, Katie Anderson and Dawsen Dorsey's pressure defense did not allow North Scott to get any consistent offense going. Herrig finished the game with four steals of her own as the Knights trailed just 29-25 at the break.
Wardlow, though, served notice to the rest of the MAC she is not afraid of anyone. Her attacking drives to the basket led to nine made field goals and six foul shot attempts which she made four of. But it was her aggressive mentality on defense that seemed to lift her teammates, according to coach Katelyn McNamara.
"We had a conversation with (Wardlow) on Thursday and the team usually plays to her level and when she is playing with that aggressiveness, we often match her intensity," McNamara said. "I thought, our effort, was the best of the season bar none. Defensively, our effort was great and we rebounded the ball well. There are some things to work on offensively but I thought our defense kept us in the game."
Ultimately, the Knights hit a stretch of missed shots and turnovers that coincided with the big plays from North Scott's top players that made the difference in the late third and early fourth quarters.
As for the 100th win, Lancers coach T.J. Case said it was a nice accomplishment but said it was a shared effort from the entire program. Case's career record as girls coach now stands at 100-25.
"It's never been about T.J. Case. It's been about putting this program on the map," Case said. "I have a great staff, and I have great kids that come from great families. We are all doing this together."