Third-quarter buzzer saves Port Huron Northern, as Huskies hold on for MAC Red win over Warren Cousino
WARREN — Saved by the bell.
Like a boxer put on their heels by a series of body blows, a reeling Port Huron Northern squad welcomed the buzzer signaling the end of the third quarter of Thursday night’s Macomb Area Conference Red Division prize fight.
It came at a perfect time … for them.
Clinging to a three-point lead that had once been as much as 14, the Huskies sat down, caught their breath, and refocused, then started the fourth quarter on an 7-0 run, keeping host Warren Cousino scoreless for the first 4:43 of the fourth quarter, and holding on for a 51-43 win.
“Obviously, it’s just like a timeout. That break helped, because they’d made quite a run there, started making some plays, and really picked the pressure up on us defensively, and once we were able to gather ourselves a little bit, and in turn were able to push back,” said Northern coach Kevin Landschoot, who didn’t do or say anything dramatic in the break between quarters.
“Just reminded them what we talked about in practice, just to execute offensively, trust your teammates. We’ve got a senior group that’s played together for a long time, and some young ones in there, too, that contribute.”
One of the key young contributors for Northern (8-2, 3-0 MAC Red) was sophomore 6-footer Ally Shagena, who got the unenviable task of guarding Cousino all-stater Kate McArthur, the Central Michigan-bound guard, for the majority of the first three quarters. In the fourth, Landschoot switched the 6-foot-2 Sarah Wight on to McArthur for much of the remainder of the game.
Between the two lanky forwards, their length and lateral quickness defensively helped hold McArthur to 12 points.
“Obviously, Kate is a competitor, she’s a strong player, but we need to be able to rely on the rest of our team — and we usually can,” said first-year Cousino coach Amy Mitchell, who got a game-high 18 points from senior guard Mackenzie Cook, but just 13 points combined from the rest of the squad. “We missed a lot of bunnies early on, and shot ourselves in the foot, and the lack of momentum carried on into the second half. And it really hurt it in the long run.
McArthur scored six of her points in the 13-2 run by Cousino (5-2, 1-1 MAC Red) to close out the third quarter, trimming a 14-point, 35-21 deficit, down to just three, 37-34, when the third-quarter buzzer sounded.
“We definitely needed that momentum to carry on into the fourth quarter. And they tried. It’s not a question of effort — the kids worked really hard; a couple of players played the entire game, and still were working their butts off at the end. It’s just a question of finishing and staying mentally tough throughout the entire game,” said Mitchell, who called a timeout when the deficit hit 11 points, trying to snap her squad out of its malaise.
“We made a defensive change in that timeout as well. I just felt like they were picking apart our defense, so we had to switch it up a little bit, keep them on their toes. Maybe come out with some energy.
“We just have to be mentally tough, and play through that adversity. That’s what we’re working on as a team.”
The energy didn’t carry over into the fourth, as the Huskies got a putback by Ally Shagena (15 points) and a drive by Sydney Koppinger, then a three-point opportunity from Wight (team-high 20) to make it 45-34 forcing the Patriots to foul to buy more time.
After all its momentum in the third, the Patriots didn’t score until Olivia Joliffe’s drive with 3:17 left in the game made it a nine-point deficit at 45-36.
Northern hit 7 of 13 free throws — four of those by Ally Shagena — in the fourth quarter to close it out.
Neither team gets a break after Thursday’s game — Cousino hosts Division 1 honorable mention Macomb Dakota while the Huskies welcome No. 10-ranked Grosse Pointe North in MAC Red contests — but both first-year coaches have been around the league to know that there are no breaks.
“The MAC Red is tough — there’s no easy nights, that’s for sure,” Landschoot said.
“There’s great players in the MAC, and great teams. We’ve got a couple of wins here, but we know we have to go right back to preparing for the next team.”