After a regular season of up-and-down basketball, Northview’s “Kiddie Kats” are hitting stride at the best possible time.
After opening Division I tournament play with a sectional-final upset of Whitmer on Saturday, Northview broke a late tie to emerge with a 44-41 victory over Central Catholic on Thursday night in a district semifinal played at Clay.
“Coach [assistant Denny] Shoemaker and I were in the locker room before the game and he said to me, ‘You know we’re starting five sophomores in a district semifinal game?’ ” veteran Northview coach Jerry Sigler said. “We never thought that we’d be here, so kudos to the kids.
“It just happened that tonight was our night. It was an exciting win for the kids. Who’d have thought that we’d be here they way the season had been going?”
Kendall McCoy, one of those five sophomore starters for the Wildcats (12-10), led the way with 21 points, as Northview earned a district-final matchup with top-seeded Three Rivers Athletic Conference champion Notre Dame (22-3) 2 p.m. Saturday at Perrysburg.
PHOTO GALLERY: Northview girls upset Central Catholic
Notre Dame beat Northview 54-43 in last year’s district final there.
“We settled down, clamped down, and didn’t force anything,” McCoy said of the poise of her team down the stretch. “We made smart choices. We played as a team. That was really the key.”
During this regular season, Northview had lost to both Whitmer (40-35) and Central (47-42).
“It turned late in the year,” Sigler said of Northview’s recent improvement. “I thought we played with a little more composure. We had 15 turnovers tonight, but the guard play has gotten better.”
With the game tied at 40 after Central’s Sydney Petty converted two free throws with 1:23 remaining, sophomore Kendall Jessing (five points, nine rebounds) made her only field goal of the game on a 10-footer along the left baseline 13 seconds later.
When the Irish (14-11) failed to score on their next possession, McCoy missed the front end of a bonus chance at the line, and Jessing’s fifth foul gave Petty another chance to knot things from the line in a double-bonus situation.
This time, however, Petty made just one of two with 22.8 seconds to go, and Central fouled Northview sophomore guard Maddie Friess, who calmly sank both ends of a bonus opportunity for the game’s final points with 21.6 seconds left.
Central had two more chances to tie the game, but neither was successful.
Keytha Foreman (eight points) launched a 3-point attempt that rimmed out.
Demi Russell rebounded for the Irish, but teammate Jen Vliet’s subsequent desperation 3-point heave with two seconds to go was blocked by Northview sophomore Maddie Cole and time expired.
Foreman’s shot, which looked to be halfway down before rolling out, was indicative of Central’s shooting woes in defeat. The Irish were 15-for-54 (28 percent) from the field, including a 4-for-18 showing beyond the 3-point arc.
“We had some shots — point-blank — right at the basket,” Central coach Marty McGurk said. “The kids did everything we asked them to do. We got the ball where we wanted to get it, and we got the shots we wanted in the last two minutes.
“But the ball just didn’t fall. It rolled around and fell away instead of falling in. It’s disappointing.”
Northview was not a whole lot better, especially early, going 14-of-37 (38 percent) for the field.
To say that McCoy carried the Wildcats, offensively, for much of the game would be an understatement.
Until Lauren Yurjevic scored on a put-back with three minutes left in the third quarter, McCoy was the only Northview player to score from the field in the game. She had scored 19 of the Wildcat’s 25 points before that Yurjevic bucket put them up 27-24.
“I just wanted to come out and work really hard,” McCoy said. “I had fire in my gut, and just wanted do whatever I could to help my team win.”
With the seal finally broken, McCoy’s teammates “heated up” to hit five field goals over the game’s remaining 11 minutes.
One of the biggest of those baskets was a Friess 3-pointer from the top of the circle that pulled Northview within 35-34 with 6:22 left in the game.
After the teams were even at 36-36 and 38-38, Lauren Keil’s 15-footer from the left wing put Northview up 40-38 with 1:40 to go.
Central out-rebounded the taller Kats 37-32, and forced 15 Northview turnovers while committing 13.
Vliet topped the Irish in scoring with 11 points, and Russell led Central with eight rebounds. Cole matched teammate Jessing’s team-high nine boards.
Contact Steve Junga at: email@example.com, 419-724-6461 or on Twitter@JungaBlade.