Never say never.
That’s not the official motto of the North girls’ basketball team but it certainly is appropriate following the Rangers’ 66-64 win over visiting Euclid on Saturday.
Euclid held a 64-60 lead with less than a minute to play before the Rangers forced three turnovers and scored baskets off each of them to secure the come from behind win.
“I was impressed, I’m not going to lie,” said North coach Paul Force. “Down by six or seven points with just over three minutes left, it felt like the wind had been taken out of our sails a bit. Credit some huge defensive plays and trusting each other on the offensive end and we made just enough plays. Picking up our defensive intensity, we were able to force some turnovers down the stretch and it seemed like we capitalized off of every one of them when it mattered most.”
Delana Harper’s layup gave the Panthers that four-point cushion.
Samantha Pirosko and Destiny Leo both recorded steals in the closing minutes and the Rangers also benefited from an errant pass that led to a game-tying basket with 18 seconds left in regulation.
Leo’s spinning layup with seven seconds left was the difference.
Euclid opened the game with a 13-9 lead and held a 15-11 advantage midway through the second quarter when Connie Chaplin was forced out of the game with her third foul.
North took advantage and closed out the half on a 21-6 run that gave the Rangers a 32-21 halftime lead.
“That second quarter run was key, obviously without Connie on the floor they’re not the same team and I’m proud of the girls of taking advantage of that opportunity within the game,” Force said. “We were able to get some run-outs and get balanced scoring from a number of girls during that run.”
Chaplin and Harper combined to score 12 points for the Panthers as they outscored the Rangers, 23-12, in the third quarter.
“We lapsed a little on the defensive end,” Force said. “We were certainly keying on those two and after keeping them to eight points in the first half, I was disappointed to see us allow them to get going like that in the third quarter. But, give them credit; those two are good basketball players. It’s hard to lock them down for 32 minutes, but we need to get better in that area and we know it.”
Pirosko scored 14 of her game-high 24 points in the fourth quarter to fuel the Rangers’ comeback. She also recorded 12 rebounds to notch the 35th double-double of her career.
“I’m just happy to come out with a win,” Pirosko said. “We were a little sloppy, but still had the outcome we wanted against some tough competition. It was a battle for 32 minutes on the boards and I’m proud of our effort.”
Leo finished with 22 points, nine rebounds, three assists and three steals. Anaunda Lyons and Val Arnold both finished with seven points and Lyons also recorded 10 rebounds and three steals.
All seven of Lyons’ points were scored during North’s fourth-quarter run.
“This is two games in a row that Anaunda has come up with a big quarter for us,” Force said. “That’s good to see. She’s been working her tail off and is starting to see some of that pay off. She just needs to stay after it and work on being more consistent. She knows her opportunities to impact the game offensively will be there from time to time.”
The Rangers improved to 5-2 overall.