Northwest Catholic takes down Bethel and will prepare to host New Fairfield in the Class MM quarterfinal round on Thursday.
By Marlon Pitter
Nora Staunton is more used to shutting down opponents than scoring herself, but the senior guard stepped up offensively when Northwest Catholic needed her most.
Staunton led the Lions with 20 points – including 12 from beyond the arc – to defeat Bethel 58-44 in the second round of the Class MM state tournament Friday night in West Hartford.
“Sometimes I usually stick to the more defensive end, but our regular shooters weren’t [connecting] so all of us had to step up in other ways,” said Staunton.
Northwest Catholic started the game on a 6-0 run and kept Bethel off the board until the 4:27 mark in the first quarter. The teams matched runs and baskets, as the Lions held a 14-8 lead after eight minutes.
The Wildcats cut the margin to three early in the second quarter, but Staunton made two 3-pointers to give the Lions a 21-13 lead with 3:16 left.
Staunton again connected from deep with 16 seconds remaining, but Brooke Lacey answered for Bethel with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to cut the margin to 25-20 at halftime.
— Marlon Pitter (@marlonpresents) March 6, 2020
The Wildcats scored first in the second half, as Lacey made a layup and the ensuing free throw to bring the score to 25-23.
Bethel kept the game within striking distance in the third quarter, but Northwest Catholic slowly stretched the lead to seven, up 37-30 heading to the fourth.
Staunton hit her fourth 3-pointer of the night to give the Lions a 10-point lead early in the fourth quarter.
“Nora’s a shooter,” said Northwest Catholic head coach Jenniqua Bailey. “She doesn’t really have the confidence sometimes, so I was very proud to see her take her shots tonight. As you can see, when she’s on, she’s on. That’s very similar to Morgan [Murphy] … but tonight, it was Nora’s night. I’m very glad she found the confidence to take her shot, and hopefully she keeps that going the rest of the way.”
Maranda Nyborg, who scored a game-high 21 points for the Wildcats, notched consecutive layups to pull Bethel within six with five minutes to play.
Struggling from the free throw line, Bethel couldn’t capitalize down the stretch as both teams entered the double bonus in the final minutes. Nyborg scored her 20th point of the game at the 2:30 mark to make it 47-40, but the Lions salted the game away from the charity stripe to seal the victory.
Brianna Lebrun and Morgan Murphy scored in double figures for Northwest Catholic with 13 and 10 points respectively. Lebrun grabbed 14 rebounds as well to lead the Lions.
— Marlon Pitter (@marlonpresents) March 7, 2020
No. 5 Northwest Catholic will host No. 13 New Fairfield Thursday night in the quarterfinal round after the Rebels upset No. 4 Bacon Academy on the road.
Bailey said having the same core as last year’s group, which made the Class S semifinals as the 28-seed, is an integral key to this postseason run.
“It’s very helpful having my five starters actually back,” Bailey said. “They know what it takes to get there. They’ve been through it already, so that gives us the advantage to press forward … to make it to the next level, the next stage. These girls are ready. They have it in their head. They don’t want to go home, so they’re laying it all out on the court.”
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