There was nothing ordinary about North’s offseason so naturally, the Rangers turned in an extraordinary performance in a 64-43 season-opening win at Cleveland Heights on Monday.
The Rangers, who have been sidelined for the first two months of the season due to a school-district wide pause of athletic activities, pulled away from the Tigers in the second quarter and never let up.
“It was just exciting to get out on the court,” said North coach Paul Force. “This group has been through a lot and they’ve sacrificed to earn this opportunity. I’m proud of them to stay locked in and prepped for a moment like tonight.”
The Rangers led 13-10 after the first quarter and then outscored the Tigers by nine in the second to take a 35-23 lead into the break.
Cleveland Heights fought to stay in the game but North countered every Tiger run with one of its own.
“For sure there were some nerves in that first half but I felt we made some big plays on the defensive end that let us get out and run a bit in the second half,” Force said. “That and being able to execute in our half court stuff was critical. Some shots started going in and the girls started playing a little looser. Credit Cleveland Heights, they didn’t go away and kept playing hard. They’re going to improve as the season goes on.”
Seniors Avril Drew and Abby Carter combined to score 53 of North’s 64 points.
“Those two bring a lot of varsity experience to the floor for us, so I felt the girls were looking to them and Cece (Hamilton) quite a bit,” Force said. “That’s fine for tonight but we have other girls who can make an impact and they will. This is the first step of a long journey for us.”
Drew scored a career-high 29 points and also pulled down a team-high 12 rebounds to go along with four steals and an assist.
“It was awesome,” said Drew of getting back on the court. “We all came out with lots of energy and it was great to get back on the court with my girls again. We all missed it and were super eager to finally get out there.”
Carter also recorded a double-double with 24 points and 10 rebounds to go along with six assists, five steals and a blocked shot.
Hamilton scored seven points and Hailie Wilson pitched in with four.
The Rangers shot 39-percent from the floor and committed just nine turnovers in the win.
“We all did a great job on looking up the floor for some transition shots and sprinting down the floor as well,” Drew said. “We also moved the ball really well, which allowed us to get open looks.”
The Rangers return to action on Wednesday when they host Mentor.
They’re heading into that game with a lot of momentum.
“Honestly, I think this game was a huge confidence-booster for everyone,” Drew said. “Personally, I have felt pretty confident for the start of our season and am just trying to help others boost theirs as well. Especially with having some younger girls playing up with us this year, my first couple years of high school, my confidence was very shaky, so a goal for many of our upperclassmen is to help them out as much as we can.”