After starting the season by posting five generally dominating wins, it was time for the Northside Lady Bears to endure a gut-check kind of game.
The Lady Bears started slow in Friday's Taco Bell Tournament of Champions game against Moore (Okla.) before rallying. Then, Northside had to survive a late Lady Lion comeback attempt before holding on for a 57-53 win at Southside Gym.
"We hadn't been in a position where we were behind or hadn't been in a position where it was a close ballgame, but that team played really, really well; they hit 10 3-pointers," Northside coach Rickey Smith said.
"We needed a win like that. ... That is why we have this tournament, to play teams like that."
Sophomore point guard Jersey Wolfenbarger, who led all scorers with 20 points, agreed with her coach's assessment.
"We showed guts; it took everybody playing their game and knowing their roles," Wolfenbarger said. "It was just a big team effort."
The Lady Bears (6-0) began the game by trailing 10-2 while not making a single field goal. Northside then got going with eight straight points, and the game became tight entering the second half.
Wolfenbarger started that 8-0 run by making Northside's first basket, a 3-pointer which was set up by a steal from senior Deairah Mays.
"I wasn't worried at all and I didn't want my teammates to feel worried," Wolfenbarger said. "We've done drills in practice where sometimes we don't come out as strong as we need to and there's times where we have to find a way to dig ourselves out of that hole and just come back and we did."
Late in the third quarter, after Moore tied the score at 36-all, Northside went on a 12-2 run to take a 48-38 lead with 5:55 left. Tiya Douglas hit a pair of long-range jump shots and Tracey Bershers made four foul shots in that stretch.
Then with more than two minutes left, after Douglas came up with a loose ball on the defensive end, Wolfenbarger launched a 3 to give the Lady Bears their biggest lead of the night at 11 points, 53-42.
However, Moore had one more run left.
The Lady Lions hit three straight 3's, the latter from Ashanti Day with 23 seconds left, making it a one-possession game at 53-51.
Northside was able to weather that spurt as senior Sara Bershers, who picked up her third foul right before halftime, hit four straight free throws in a one-and-one situation.
"We turned the ball over a little bit late, we didn't execute some things we were trying to do and that's the sign of being a little bit mentally fatigued," Smith said. "We'll definitely go back and watch the film on that. ... But at the end of the day, a lesser team would have lost and I don't know if it would have been an upset but it was primed (to be one).
"Our kids hit some big baskets, I thought Tiya Douglas hit a couple of big shots, Jazz Coleman hit one and then Jersey had a dagger with that 3. She really stepped it up."
Smith also praised Bershers for being able to make clutch plays despite playing with three fouls throughout the entire second half.
"We had to switch defenses early," Smith said. "We played man right off the bat and they were annihilating us and Sara got three quick fouls and so we had to change it (to a zone).
"But she played smarter (in the second half); she's a senior and she's been in a lot of big battles so she played smart."
Wolfenbarger ended up making three 3's and also went 7-of-8 from the foul line. Sara Bershers added 16 points, and she and younger sister Tracey Bershers combined to make 12-of-16 free throws.
Kelsi Fitzgerald, a senior guard, had 17 points to lead Moore, which included making five 3's, four of those in the first half. Sophomore guard Raychael Harjo added 15 points and three 3's, while 6-foot-3 sophomore forward Aaliyah Moore had 14 points and grabbed nine rebounds.
Northside did outrebound the Lady Lions, 33-27. Coleman and Tracey Bershers each grabbed six boards.
Van Buren 68, Tulsa (Okla.) East Central 46
A barrage of 3-point shots enabled the Lady Pointers to dramatically turn Friday's ToC game around after halftime.
At the break, Van Buren (5-3) trailed East Central by six, 29-23, while making just 1-of-9 attempts from beyond the perimeter.
But in the third quarter, the Lady Pointers converted five 3's as they outscored the Lady Cardinals, 23-9, in taking a 46-38 lead.
Van Buren then added four more treys in the final quarter, three of them from senior guard Rylee Ryan, who ended up with five 3's and led all scorers with 23 points.
Fellow senior Olivia Schnakenberg added 14 points on 6-of-7 field goal shooting, while senior Kayleigh Evans and freshman Brooklyn Kannady each had 11 points.
The Lady Pointers hit 9-of-15 3-point attempts in the second half. Kannady had three 3's after the half as well.
For East Central, Ty'Najah Mitchell finished with 14 points and converted four 3's, while Shametrionna Stone had 11 points.
Bishop Miege (Kan.) 73, Ponca City (Okla.) 59
After defeating Howe 74-62 in Thursday's late game, Bishop Miege came right back and opened Friday's ToC action with a win against another Oklahoma school.
Bishop Miege had five players in double figures, led by 15 points apiece from sophomore Payton Verhulst and senior Johnni Gonzalez. Ashton Verhulst added 14 points, Faith Hawthorne 12 and Emajin McCallop had 11.
Ponca City had three players in double figures. Ryley Beard finished with 16 points, while Baylee Fincher had 15 and Carlie Badley 13.
Howe 73, Southside 27
In her final game at the Taco Bell Tournament of Champions, Howe senior Jalei Oglesby scored 34 points and also grabbed 14 rebounds in helping the Lady Lions to the win late Friday.
Oglesby, who set a single-season tournament record in scoring last season, also had 31 points in the Lady Lions' loss to Bishop Miege (Kan.) Thursday night.
In Friday's win, Oglesby went 14-of-18 from the field and 5-of-5 from the foul line.
Howe built a 23-5 lead at the end of the first quarter and then led 51-19 at halftime.
Melanie Rice had 10 points to lead the Mavericks in scoring.