North Knox takes out Lincoln, 53-39
BICKNELL — North Knox's girls basketball team has been a buzzsaw for nearly all of its opponents this season. But with Lincoln coming off a surprise win of 4A power Castle earlier in the week, the Alices seemed primed to potentially pull off a second upset in three days.
The Class 2A No. 2 Warriors were more than up to the challenge.
North Knox did it with offense in the first half, draining seven 3-pointers, and defense in the second, limiting Alices' leading scorer Ari Gerkin to just two second-half points, and the Warriors eased to a 53-39 victory on Saturday.
North Knox (21-1) was balanced as usual, with Brynna Collins and Brooklyn Sturgeon each tallying 13 points, and Alex McKinely was close behind with 12. Gerkin finished with 12 points to top Lincoln, but she was limited to just 1-of-3 shooting in the second half.
Kahre McCrary added nine points for Lincoln (11-10), and Faith Fleetwood seven, while second-leading scorer Gracie Kramer was held to four.
It was the Warriors' first win over Lincoln since December of 2013 in the Niehaus Holiday Tournament. The victory also marked the first time that North Knox has defeated all three Knox County foes since the 2005-06 season. The Warriors could reclaim the No. 1 spot in 2A on Monday after previous No. 1 Central Noble lost earlier in the week.
Coach Steve Meurer was pleased with ending his team's county droughts, and he gave much credit to the defense of Reegan Hammelman and Lexi Primus, who were the primary defenders on Gerkin and Kramer.
“Kudos to our players for containing Gerkin and Kramer. He held them to a grand total of 16, and the goal was to keep them under 20,” Meurer said. “That's a compliment to all of our players and how they followed the game plan.
“There's been a lot of firsts for me this year, and it's been awhile since I've beaten Lincoln. And I've never beat Lincoln and Rivet (in the same season) since I've been here. So beating those two teams, you have no idea how big that is.”
Sturgeon's 3-pointer with 3:09 before halftime gave the Warriors their biggest lead of the first half, 30-16. North Knox didn't score again before intermission. Gerkin racked up the next four points, Macy Sexton and Kramer added hoops, and Kramer's free throw with 2.8 ticks showing trimmed the margin to 30-25 at the break.
“We had a bad spurt. We had Lexi and Alex in foul trouble,” Meurer said. “(Lincoln) made a nice run the last three minutes, and they had all the momentum going into the second half.
“We shot too many 3s, so we talked at halftime about attacking the basket and getting easier shots. The defensive focal point was Gerkin, and we contained her (in the second half). But the biggest adjustment was on our offense. Sometimes we fall in the love with the 3, and we came out firing from the start. But when you're not hitting them, you need to move the ball more.”
The Warriors got the message. They shot 7-of-18 from long range before half and attempted only three 3-pointers in the second half.
But Fleetwood began the second half with a bucket to cut the margin to three, and the senior had an open 3-pointer the next possession to tie, but it was off the mark. Following a Hammelman free throw, Collins notched a steal that led to a fastbreak hoop for Hammelman, and Primus recorded a steal the next time down to set up Sturgeon for an easy two, prompting a Lincoln timeout.
The Alices pulled back within 37-32 on a drive by Fleetwood with 2:07 left in the quarter, but the Warriors took a stranglehold on the game from there. McKinley knocked in a jumper from the foul line, Briley Utt scored on a putback, and Strugeon added a hoop before blocking Kramer's 3-point attempt at the horn.
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The gap after three was 43-32. Fleetwood's 3 pulled Lincoln within 46-36 with 6:29 showing before North Knox put on the finishing touches. The widest margin came at 53-36.
“North Knox is a good team, and they hustle,” Lincoln coach Tim Young said. “They've struggled against the zone some, and I think they'll probably see a zone in the sectional, but we're not a good zone team. They're tough to cover. We left too many points on the board in the first quarter. We didn't finish some good looks.
“You can't give a good team chances to keep spreading it out. We had it from 16 down to five, and the we just couldn't make a play. They answered, and then we didn't have an answer for them.”
McCrary's steal-and-layup 21 seconds in gave Lincoln its only lead, 2-0. McKinley and Primus hit consecutive 3s to put the Warriors ahead for good, and the lead was 18-13 after one. Primus, McKinley and Collins all had five in the stanza. McKinley and Primus went to the bench with two fouls within less than a minute early in the second. Two 3s by Sturgeon and one by Collins helped the Warriors extend their lead before Lincoln made its best push before the half.
North Knox took the junior varsity game as well, 46-25. Milee LeRoy led the JV Warriors (13-1) with 11 points, and Reagan Jones and Jade Richter each scored nine. For Lincoln's JV (6-13), Gracer Archer led with eight points.
On Tuesday, the Warriors host Loogootee for senior night at 6 p.m., while the Alices play their regular-season finale at Olney, Ill., at 6:30 p.m.
NORTH KNOX 53, LINCOLN 39
Gerkin (F) 5-10 2-4 12, Sexton (F) 2-4 0-2 4, McCrary (G) 2-6 4-6 9, Fleetwood (G) 3-8 0-0 7, Kramer (G) 1-8 2-4 4, Meadows 1-3 0-0 3, Riggs 0-0 0-0 0, Phillips 0-0 0-0 0, Carter 0-0 0-0 0, Archer 0-0 0-0 0, Snyder 0-0 0-0 0, Farrar 0-0 0-0 0, Doerner 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 14-39 8-16 39.
Collins (F) 4-10 3-3 13, McKinley (G) 5-11 0-0 12, Hammelman (G) 2-5 2-4 6, Sturgeon (G) 5-10 0-0 13, Primus (G) 2-6 0-0 5, McCory 1-1 0-0 2, Williams 0-2 0-0 0, Utt 1-1 0-0 2, Armes 0-1 0-0 0, Sheren 0-0 0-0 0, Jones 0-0 0-0 0, Richter 0-0 0-0 0, LeRoy 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 20-47 5-7 53.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Lincoln |13-12-7-7 — 39
North Knox |18-12-13-10 — 53
3-pointers: Lincoln 3-15 (Meadows 1-3, McCrary 1-4, Fleetwood 1-4, Kramer 0-4), North Knox 8-21 (Sturgeon 3-7, Collins 2-3, McKinley 2-4, Primus 1-3, Hammelman 0-2, Williams 0-2). Rebounds: Lincoln 22 (Sexton 7), North Knox 29 (Collins 6). Turnovers: Lincoln 15, North Knox 15. Fouls: Lincoln 9, North Knox 14. JV: North Knox 46-25.