PLEASANT VALLEY — Game to game so many opposing offenses deteriorate against North Marion High’s hyperactive defense of flying arms and swarming bodies. Usually that erosion comes in the form of shaky ball handling, soft passes and errant decision-making that leads to gobs of turnovers.
But on Thursday, host East Fairmont handled the No. 1-ranked Huskies’ full-court diamond press just fine, save for a couple of foibles here and there. Instead, the Bees’ offense collapsed under piles of bricks in what was a 66-35 North Marion blowout victory.
“We just couldn’t make a shot, what else do you want me to say,” said East Fairmont coach James Beckman, whose Bees shot just 20.3 percent (12-of-59) from the field, while turning it over 20 times. “We did a nice job executing breaking the press and we got some good, quality shots, we just didn’t hit any in the first half.”
North Marion (20-1) held East Fairmont (10-10) to 1-of-17 shooting in the first quarter and 4-of-32 (12.5 percent) in the first half, which, when coupled with the Bees’ 12 first-half turnovers, amounted to just 15 EFHS points by halftime to give the Huskies a 41-15 advantage.
“Defensively we did well there in the beginning,” said North Marion coach Mike Parrish, whose Huskies led 23-5 after the first quarter.
Offensively for North Marion, senior star guard Taylor Buonamici led the way with 18 points on 6-of-11 shooting, and she did a little bit of everything as well with nine rebounds, three assists and two steals.
Karlie Denham added another 13 points for NMHS and had team highs of five assists and four steals to go with five rebounds. Olivia Toland and Kiley Brown each scored nine apiece, and Katlyn Carson offset a rough scoring night by maintaining her usual impact on the boards and defensively with 11 rebounds, four blocks and three steals.
Kierra Bartholow scored a team-high nine points for the Bees with four rebounds, while Kianna Casuccio added five points, five rebounds and four steals.
“We got to have everybody clicking at the same time,” Parrish said, “and when they’re all scoring and sharing the ball, that’s when we’re playing our best.”
It took little time for North’s offense to ignite as the Huskies nearly made as many 3s in the game’s first three minutes (3) as East Fairmont made total field goals in the entire first half (4). A pair of triples from Brown and a third by Buonamici bolted the Huskies out to an 11-3 lead, and then a fancy spinning and-one finish by Denham moments later pushed the lead to double digits at 15-3.
The lead continued to grow for North as East Fairmont’s shots went seemingly everywhere but in the basket as the Bees suffered through an eight-minute stretch without a field goal. By the time Bartholow banged home her second 3 of the game to also give East just its second made field goal of the night, the Huskies had already rolled up a 25-9 lead with 5:05 until the half.
A North Marion scoring drought in which it tallied just four points in the first five-plus minutes of the second quarter helped to stabilize things for the Bees, but it all fell apart again when the Huskies prodded a series of consecutive turnovers that led to 11 NMHS points in a jiffy.
“We had that spell where in about an eight-minute span we only scored four points,” said Parrish, “and we can’t have that happen. We have to be a little more efficient offensively. You can’t have those droughts.”
The scoring spree to end the half absolved of any ill effects, however. Toland converted back-to-back EFHS turnovers into scores with easy setups for teammates for two of her four assists on the night, and then Brown drilled her third 3 of the half as North closed the half on a 14-3 run.
“(North Marion) doesn’t change. They do what they do and our girls know that,” Beckman said. “We just didn’t hit shots. That was the name of the game tonight.”