NEW LEBANON — Jessica Spitler knew her team was going to be up against the odds in its season-opener last week.
And who could blame her for being concerned about the outcome?
Her Tri-County North girls basketball team went nearly two weeks without practice due to being quarantined and was still missing three players when they traveled to Dixie on Monday, Nov. 30, and suffered a 38-15 setback.
“Considering that we had one day of practice in the last 13 days due to not being able to practice. We’re down three players right now, one of them being a senior that’s going to bring a lot of leadership, controlling the floor, so with that being said, I think the other girls stepped up when they needed to,” she said.
The Panthers struggled early offensively as they fell behind 7-0 after the first quarter and were down 13-0 before scoring with 49 seconds left in the first half.
North was just 2-of-21 from the field in the first half and committed 15 turnovers, but only trailed the Greyhounds 13-4 at the break.
“All-in-all, we’ve got to learn to shoot the ball a little bit more. We’ve just got to finish our shots. It’s the scoring. Our defense wasn’t bad,” Spitler said.
North remained within striking distance after three quarters, trailing just 19-8.
In the fourth, tired legs and the play of Dixie’s Sierra Brinson proved more than the Panthers could overcome.
Brinson scored 14 of her game-high 16 points over the final eight minutes, including 10 straight to extend a 25-15 lead to 35-15 with just under two minutes to play.
“I think going into the third quarter we at least competed. The fourth quarter, I think we were tired and kind of got sloppy, and honestly, they had a girl that just got hot,” Spitler said.
North finished 5-of-43 from the field and committed 32 turnovers. Dixie finished 14-of-55.
Hannah Webster led North with eight points, six coming in the second half. Maddy Flory contributed three and Jenna Klingenbarger chipped in with two.
“We’ve had a rough week. It’s hard enough to get the ball rolling when you’ve had practice like that, we’ve just had nothing. We had nine days off, one day of practice then one day off,” Spitler said. “They’re definitely tired and kind of feeling that part of it.”
Despite the loss, Spitler is taking a positive approach to the remainder of the season.
“The positive that I see, and this goes from junior high to high school, is that we made a statement tonight that you just can’t walk all over us,” she said. “Moving forward, I think that teams are going to have to come out a little stronger than they have in the past. Junior high is winning. JV competed and we competed, so I think we made a statement that I don’t think (teams) can underestimate us. I think all-in-all, it’s an improvement and we’re going in the right direction.”
North also dropped a 51-26 decision to Covington on Thursday. Mackenzie Bacher and Natalie Lefeld led the Panthers with eight points each. On Saturday, Dec. 5, North fell 58-19 to Dayton Christian.
The Panthers (0-3) are scheduled to travel to Miami East for its Cross County Conference opener on Thursday, Dec. 10, and are set to play at Carlisle on Tuesday, Dec. 15.
Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4061 or follow on Twitter @emowenjr