Knights take overtime thriller over Raiders

Published 10:39 pm Wednesday, January 21, 2015

DAVID CUCCHIARA | DAILY NEWS STAY THE COURSE: Pungo center Taylor Mann tried to work her way through the Terra Ceia defense. Mann finished with a game-high 20 points, 11 rebounds.

STAY THE COURSE: Pungo center Taylor Mann tried to work her way through the Terra Ceia defense. Mann finished with a game-high 20 points, 11 rebounds.

TERRA CEIA — After being down for most of regulation, sound fourth quarter defense from the Terra Ceia girls’ basketball team carried the Knights to a 50-48 overtime win over rival Pungo Wednesday night.

For the seventh-straight game, Terra Ceia was without its senior guard and captain, Taylor Newman, a threat both defensively and offensively. The loss has forced junior guard Rebecca Harrison to adapt, finding an even more active role in the offense and compensating for the lack of Newman’s scrappy defending.

“Towards the end it was just defense, playing a triangle and two with our best players and tried to keep them from touching the ball,” said Knights’ head coach Daren Hubers. “Rebecca Harrison’s defense with the turnovers was just the difference tonight.”

Harrison finished with 10 points, eight rebounds and five assists at point guard, while also applying enough pressure on the Pungo backcourt through the final minutes to allow a Knights’ comeback.

Down eight points heading into the fourth quarter, Terra Ceia, coming off two-consecutive losses and looking at an uphill climb once again, dialed up the intensity after a couple of defensive adjustments. Center Ragan LaFever and forward Catherine Meijer began to converge on Pungo center Taylor Mann in the paint, forcing the Raiders’ guards to make plays. Mann, who had dominated through the first 24 minutes, notching 20 points and nine rebounds, found herself unable to penetrate down low.

As a result of the adjustment, Terra Ceia began to force turnovers in transition, initiated by Harrison on the perimeter and LaFever in the paint. Soon, a pair of breakaway baskets from Harrison cut the lead to four. Then, after a made free throw from Meijer and a pair of exchanged baskets, a step back three pointer from freshman Ashley James gave the Knights a 40-39, bringing the home fans to their feet for the first time in the contest.

“I tried to calm them down on offense and change the offensive set a little bit. Defensively, we tried to take their two best players out of the game,” Hubers said.

With the pressure mounting, Pungo’s Renea Auer was fouled and hit one-of-two shots at the line. The score remained 40-40 at the end of regulation.

The Knights continued to pressure the basketball on inbounds in overtime and force turnovers at halfcourt. Running the offense, Harrison found LaFever twice on backdoor passes to expand the Terra Ceia lead to four, the team’s largest of the game.

With little success from range and the double team taking Mann virtually out of the equation, the Pungo backcourt was forced to drive the lane. Point guard Macy Morgan began to work her way to the line and converted 3-of-4, while Auer was also able to hit a pair of free throws. The combination of Harrison and LaFever, however, proved too much and despite a buzzer-beating three from Morgan, the Raiders would fall by two points.

Morgan finished with 14, driven by a nine-point second quarter where she hit 4-of-5 shots. For Terra Ceia, LaFever notched a double-double with 11 points and 14 rebounds.

With the win, the Knights improve to 10-5 (5-1 TIC) and will face Lawrence on Friday in a battle for the top sport in the Tarheel Independent Conference. Pungo will look to bounce back when it hosts Northeast.

“This is good because we have a big game Friday night with another team that has one loss in the conference. A win like this is great experience looking ahead,” Hubers said.