The Norfolk High and South Sioux City girls basketball teams turned a “cold as ice” first half, in which the teams combined to make just 7 of 52 field goal attempts, into a competitive second half.
After South Sioux led just 10-9 after one quarter and Norfolk had the halftime edge at 18-17, the Panthers made 9 of 13 shots in the third quarter — scoring 25 points, while the Cardinals hit 10 of their 18 tries and totaled 28.
But Norfolk, after making only 9 of 22 first-half free throw chances, locked up its 61-56 win by converting on 15 of 21 after intermission — including nine in the game’s pivotal fourth quarter.
“At halftime we were frustrated because we didn’t feel like we played well but, at the same time, we felt like we can’t do more than get 22 free throw attempts, and (our chart) had 17 of our field goal attempts right at the rim,” Panthers coach Jared Oswald said. “So we talked about just calming down a little bit, that we’re better shooters and scorers than we’re showing, to just slow down and take a deep breath — especially during our routine at the free throw line.”
Oswald also had to limit the floor time of three players — Erin Schwanebeck, Karly Kalin and Hailey Kleinschmit — with two first-half fouls each, which he said “interfered with our rhythm.”
The Panthers’ halftime conversation produced immediate results in the third period. Norfolk made 9 of 13 shots from the field, often ending up with open shots after breaking the Cardinals’ scrambling full-court man-to-man defense, but South Sioux made 10 of its 18 field goal tries as the play of both teams improved.
Chelsea Strom and Tessa Gall — who led the Panthers in scoring with 16 and 13 points, respectively — were the beneficiaries of transition opportunities after Norfolk solved South Sioux’s pressure defense.
Strom contributed eight points in the third, while Gall — after making just 1 of 7 shots in the first half — made 3 of 4 in the third quarter.
“We were able to not just get any shots, but to get to the rim for some layups and some ‘and-ones,’ ” Oswald said.
However, Norfolk was unable to build on its 18-17 halftime lead. Each time the Panthers scored, the Cardinals answered, making 6 of 9 3-point shots in the quarter.
“I can’t fault our effort; I thought our defense wasn’t bad,” Oswald said. “I give South Sioux some credit; they went to that ‘5 out’ and were able to find shooters in the corners.”
South Sioux’s back-to-back 3s tied the score at 29 and minutes later knotted the game again at 39. The last two of the period, which came from Khaia Herron on consecutive possessions with under 40 seconds left, returned South Sioux to the lead at 45-43 entering the game’s final eight minutes.
“Those 3s kept it close in a hurry; we stretched our lead to six in the third quarter (29-23), and all of a sudden they started knocking in 3s and it was close again,” Oswald said.
Norfolk took control following four more tie-scores in the final quarter, the last after South Sioux’s eighth 3 of the second half deadlocked the score at 54, by outscoring the Cardinals 7-2. The Panthers made 7 of 12 free throws in the game’s final two minutes to clinch the 61-56 win.
Hailey Kleinschmit, whose ballhandling was a steadying influence for the Panthers against the South Sioux defensive pressure, made 4 of 6 free throws, while Erin Schwanebeck added 2 of 4 during that stretch.
“I thought our guards, Hailey especially, were pretty calm with the ball in their hands and did a good job of getting us good shots after dealing with their pressure,” Oswald said. “South Sioux may be 1-11, but they’re streaky. I watched them (on film) and saw that they were able to go stretches where they made a lot of 3s, so it wasn’t a complete surprise.”
South Sioux City 10 7 28 11 — 56
Norfolk 9 9 25 18 — 61
South Sioux City (1-11): Ella Meyers 1-1 0-0 3, Kyra Fischer 4-18 8-8 17, Brooklyn Heineman 0-3 1-2 1, Aubree Van Berkum 2-4 2-2 8, Khaia Herron 3-7 2-4 11, Hannah Strom 3-8 0-0 8, Jalen Gavin 3-11 2-3 8, Tasha Freiberg 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 16-53 14-18 56.
Norfolk (4-5): Amber Schwanebeck 0-1 0-0 0, Amanda Sellin 0-2 0-0 0, Tessa Gall 5-13 0-0 13, Erin Schwanebeck 1-7 2-4 4, Karly Kalin 1-2 2-6 4, Chelsea Strom 4-9 8-12 16, Hailey Kleinschmit 1-9 7-10 9 Makenna Skiff 3-7 2-8 8, Agdaly Sanchez 2-4 3-3 7. Totals: 22-47 24-43 61.