The Shade girls basketball team made only 1 of 13 first-quarter field goal attempts on Wednesday night.
The Panthers had difficulty contending with a significantly taller North Star lineup.
But coach Andy Muha’s squad displayed poise and tenacity when it counted most in the fourth quarter of Shade’s tense 47-43 WestPAC victory over the Cougars.
“Adversity,” Muha said after Shade improved to 11-2. “Every team we play is bigger than us by two or three inches a person.
“We’re small. We’ve got to run and play uptempo. We did that tonight. We created a lot of turnovers. I know they had a player hurt early and I know that didn’t help.”
North Star (10-6) faced plenty of its own adversity. Sophomore starting point guard Courtney Schrock left with an injury only 2 minutes, 7 seconds into a 4-all game and didn’t return. The Cougars also ran into early foul trouble as three starters each finished with four fouls.
“Losing my starting guard in the first few minutes didn’t help matters, but we’re not going to key on that,” North Star coach Randy Schrock said. “We have to learn how to battle through that.
“We got ourselves in some foul trouble and had to battle that the whole game. I think the girls played hard. Shade’s a good team. They’re scrappy. They hustled and they’re a well-coached team.”
North Star led 9-7 after one quarter and 22-21 at intermission.
The Panthers pulled ahead 36-33 after three, and the teams remained close throughout the final eight minutes. Destiny Pruss’ two free throws with 26 seconds left set the final.
“We were fortunate,” Muha said. “We’ve had some close games early in the year when we weren’t as fortunate. We got a little lucky today and I’d rather be lucky than good.”
Sophomore point guard Emma Spinelli was a big factor. The 5-foot-2 playmaker had 28 points, seven steals and four rebounds.
“Spinelli did a real nice job,” Muha said. “Emma tries to win every game. That’s her competitiveness.”
Brittany Berkey had 10 rebounds for Shade, and Alexis Medva pulled down seven boards.
North Star’s 6-0 freshman center Jackie Stanko had 12 points and 11 rebounds despite contending with four fouls.
“Jackie does a good job on the boards,” coach Schrock said. “She’s averaging 11 or 12 a game. She’s a key for us. She had to do a lot of sitting with foul trouble and it hurt us.”
Kayla Rice had 12 rebounds and seven points, while also finishing with four fouls.
“I thought it was a great high school game,” coach Schrock said. “Both teams are pretty good young teams. Shade is a team to be reckoned with. I wish them luck in the South.”
Muha believes his players benefitted from winning a close game against a quality opponent.
“Winning is contagious and I think my girls are starting to believe,” Muha said. “One of our first losses was close at the end and it didn’t go our way. Against Township, it was 44-all with about 2 minutes to go and we melted. Tonight, we didn’t melt.”
Mike Mastovich is a sports writer for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/masty81.