NU banishes ghosts of Burbank past
Just in case his team needed reminding that the Metro League did not begin and end with Kennedy and St. Francis, girls basketball coach Craig Strohm talked before Friday’s game about what Burbank did to them last year.
It took some time, but NU put last year’s losses to Burbank in the rearview mirror with a 66-54 league victory Friday night at Nevada Union High School.
With the win, NU (20-3 overall, 6-1 Metro) keeps pace with Kennedy, which knocked St. Francis from among the Metro League leaders on Thursday.
“Burbank has given us all kinds of problems,” Strohm said. “They played hard, but we were not about to let ourselves fall in the same situation as last year.”
Last year, the Lady Titans posted a pair of come-from-behind wins against the Lady Miners, the second of which sent NU on the road for the playoffs.
Friday, it took until the third quarter for NU to solve Burbank’s pesky man-to-man press. Ahead by seven points at half, NU scored nine unanswered points midway through the third quarter to push the lead back into double digits, this time to stay.
NU’s Emma Kite began the run with a putback after two Miner misses. Courtney Kephart added a hoop off a feed from Molly Heck, Mae Valdes canned a three-point bomb, and Kephart completed the run with a pair of free throws.
Kephart’s free throws gave NU a 50-35 lead with two minutes left in the quarter.
“We were way too condensed on offense and not making our cuts in the first half,” said Valdes, who finished with 16 points. “In the second half, we got over our jitters.”
NU (20-3 overall, 6-1 Metro) jumped to a 13-2 early advantage, due in large part to the sharpshooting of wing Mackenzie Murphy. The 5-foot-10 senior, who had a team-high 19 points, hit three treys in the opening four minutes of the game.
“I was feeling it early, so I continued to shoot,” Murphy said. “That third (trey) was iffy, but it went in, too.”
NU inflated the lead early in the second quarter to 16 on a 10-footer by Valdes, but Burbank responded with a run of its own later in the quarter.
Four different players from the Lady Titans young squad contributed to the seven-point run, which cut the lead to seven with 2:02 left in the half. Included in that span was a drive for basket by Charlisse Butler, who led all scorers with 21 points.
Burbank (13-9, 2-5) got as close as six two times in the third quarter before NU’s run shook off the Lady Titans and their press for good.
“Experience was the difference,” Burbank coach Lindsey Ferrell Jr. said. “Not to take anything away from NU, but we have nine underclassmen on the team, and they are still learning the system.”
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