PITTSBORO — Early in this 2021 season, Northwood women’s basketball head coach Cameron Vernon has preached to his players: when they play with energy, they’re a team to be reckoned …
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PITTSBORO — Early in this 2021 season, Northwood women’s basketball head coach Cameron Vernon has preached to his players: when they play with energy, they’re a team to be reckoned with.
Last Friday’s second quarter was quite the reminder.
In those definitive eight minutes, the Chargers racked up 27 of their 58 total points and all but ended the Orange Panthers’ shot at an upset victory before the teams even left the floor at halftime. They played with pace. They rebounded relentlessly. They shared the ball. And they scored. A lot.
“Everyone was getting open,” freshman guard Skylar Adams said.
That brief offensive explosion was all Northwood needed to topple Orange, 58-29, and move to 3-0. To Vernon, though, it was also a tantalizing glimpse at what his team can accomplish when every player on the court is 100% locked in. In other words, when they play with energy.
“We just need to learn how to sustain that the whole time,” Vernon said.
Friday’s game — which also functioned as an early senior night for Northwood’s Rae McClarty, Jillian McNaught and Jamaria Faucette — started simply enough, as the Chargers led 10-5 after a quarter.
Then the downpour started.
Adams, who’s already seized starting point guard duties as a freshman, kicked things off with a 3-pointer. Then junior guard McKenna Snively sank two free throws, senior guard McClarty converted an and-one layup and junior forward Natalie Bell made a 3-pointer of her own. Suddenly, it was 21-11.
“If we want to have a great team, we have to have everyone involved,” Vernon said. “It’s really difficult, as an opposing coach, to prepare for five or six girls who can score as opposed to one or two.”
And as the Charger offense got going, one player was noticeably absent: sophomore forward Te’Keyah Bland, who by her own admission got off to a slow start with no points in the first quarter and a half.
“It took me a minute to get into the game,” Bland said, “but once I realized where I was at — if I just got big and stopped playing so little — then it started falling.”
Indeed, the 6-foot forward’s first points of the game came on a left-to-right spin and layup in the post; Bland then immediately swiped the ball away on defense and sank a jumper. The Chargers were officially cruising, their lead ballooning to 33-13 after more layups from Bell and McNaught.
Finally, Bland made a layup on Northwood’s last possession of the half — only for Adams to one-up her teammate by stealing Orange’s subsequent inbounds pass for a layup of her own (and nearly stealing the inbounds pass after that). Four more points in about two seconds put the team’s lead at 37-15.
“Everybody was scoring,” Bland said. “We’re not a selfish team.”
Even though their production slowed a bit after halftime — Northwood outscored Orange 21-14 in the third and fourth quarters — the Chargers’ scoring remained well distributed. By game’s end, six players had eight or more points: Bland (a team-high 12), Snively, Bell McClarty, McNaught and Adams.
Unsurprisingly, all six also scored at least once in the Chargers’ scintillating second quarter, which —lingering defensive issues aside — showed how high this team’s ceiling is.
“That’s how we’re supposed to play,” Vernon said. “That’s Northwood women’s basketball.”
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