Nicole Rightnowar felt the pressure of playing in a tight contest. So did the rest of the Bedford girls basketball team.
With her team held to a 3-pointer in the first five minutes of the second quarter, some frustration appeared to set in for the Kicking Mules.
“Their defense put on a lot of pressure, and we didn’t know what to do,” Rightnowar said. “We just kept turning the ball over and once we knew what to do, we were good.”
Finally, Rightnowar said, her team figured out what it would take to secure a 47-46 win over St. Ursula Academy.
“We had to pass up the court to the corners, or either shoot, or dribble-drive,” said Rightnowar, who paced the Kicking Mules with 13 points. “And it pretty much worked, every time.”
The Mules took advantage of a 15-point fourth quarter, including six points from guard Kendra Bussell, and a poor free-throw shooting effort in the final eight minutes by the Arrows to earn the win.
St. Ursula went 3 for 16 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter, including a 3-for-12 effort in the final 3:14.
“I said, if you guys make your free throws, and just make half of them, you win this walking away,” St. Ursula coach Jim Strall said. “That’s one thing we struggled with, and we shoot them all the time.
“But we’re young. I’ve got two freshman and three sophomores, so it’s going to take some time.
“We’ve just got to turn it around.”
Bedford, meanwhile, finished 11 for 19 on free throws, including a 5-for-9 effort in the fourth quarter.
“The game was really close, so that definitely decided the game ,” Rightnowar said. “My teammates could just knock them down, and it just wasn’t falling for [St. Ursula].”
Those opportunities were a byproduct of the physicality of the game.
“It’s always a big rivalry for us, but it’s mostly good basketball,” said St. Ursula guard Maurissa Leonard, who scored 14 points. “It’s not mean at all, but it’s physical.”
But, Strall added, “It’s going to be like that every game, almost. Everybody we play is going to be bigger. What we’re trying to do is press, and drop back and play [defense].”
But the intensity grew as the game progressed — despite the fact that Bedford took a 10-6 lead after the first quarter.
The Arrows went 3 for 11 from the floor in the first quarter, yet took a 27-18 lead at halftime by going on an 8-3 run in the final 2:14 of the half.
“In the locker room we talk about keeping the momentum going, and everybody keep pushing,” Leonard said.
“We all tried to do that, and we kept anticipating steals, and we kept our heads in the game.”
The Kicking Mules tied the game twice in the second half — at 29 on Rightnowar’s layup with 2:27 left in the third, then at 37 with 5:50 left in the fourth on two free throws by Rightnowar.
After Lauren Knauss’ bucket and a free throw by Justice Bowie put Bedford ahead 42-39, the Kicking Mules maintained at least a one-point lead down the stretch, largely on account of St. Ursula’s free-throw shooting, to secure the win.
Contact Rachel Lenzi at: email@example.com, 419-724-6510 or on Twitter @RLenziBlade.