ORCS bounces back with victory over Kenmare

It didn’t take a blowout loss to cross-town rival Bishop Ryan for the Our Redeemer’s Christian School girls basketball team to figure out that there’s no fun in being on the wrong end of a lopsided game.

But it proved to be a good lesson as to what the Knights needed to improve upon to avoid finding themselves in a similar situation as the regular season whittles down to its end – shoot a high percentage and play pressure defense.

“We didn’t shoot the ball particular well (against Ryan) so we wanted to make sure we cleaned up that part of our game,” ORCS coach Kory Nelson said. “We wanted to continue to push the ball up the court as much as we could and as fast as we could. I liked that the most. We got away from that a little bit against Bishop Ryan.”

The Knights did both as they led from start to finish and held a double-digit advantage throughout the latter stage of the first half and all of the second in a 60-47 victory over District 12 opponent Kenmare on Friday.

ORCS (7-4 overall, 2-1 district) made life difficult on Kenmare’s guards throughout the contest with aggressive full court man-to-man defense, leading to a number of backcourt turnovers. The Knights forced 18 in the first half and 27 for the game.

“I thought we played good defense,” Nelson said. “Against Bishop Ryan we kinda lacked in our press some intensity, I thought. We got it tonight and made some turnovers.”

It was all Knights early as ORCS received a bucket from each of its seniors – Ashley Koppinger, Emily VanLith and Billie Bangen – to take a 6-0 lead. A 3-pointer by eighth-grade guard Morgan Olson opened up a nine-point advantage before the Honkers (6-5, 2-1) got on the scoreboard with 2:39 left in the first quarter. Olson led the Knights with 27 points.

“Pushing the ball up the court really helped us,” Olson said. “Our fast break and transition worked tonight.”

Olson and Koppinger combined for 25 of ORCS’ 33 points in the first half to build a 15-point advantage at the break. Eight of Kenmare’s 17 first-half points came from the free-throw line.

“It felt good to get a quick lead because Kenmare has a good team and they did beat us in district play last year,” VanLith said. “And we’ve always kind of had a rivalry with them so it felt good to get out there and get in a comfortable position.”

A flurry of 3-pointers by Kenmare in the fourth quarter made the game appear closer than it truly was, but Honkers coach Brock Zeitz said he was encouraged with the way his team battled.

“I was pretty happy with our resiliencey down the stretch,” Zeitz said. “I think we started to understand a little bit more how to deal with pressure. Obviously in that first half we did a poor job of handling pressure and turnovers led to points on their end.”

Lexie Munson led the Honkers with 21 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter.

Bangen returned to the starting lineup after leaving Tuesday’s game against Bishop Ryan with chest pains. She finished with two points. Kenmare’s Shelby Hass was injured following a collision in the first half and did not return to the game. According to Zeitz, Hass had a few of her teeth knocked out of position. Zeitz didn’t say when she could return to the team.

Kenmare hosts New Town today while ORCS travels to Glenburn on Thursday.