Sullivan North's Shenoah Bradley drives in for a layup against Tri-Cities Christian on Thursday in the Richard Carroll Gymnasium at North.
KINGSPORT — With eight freshmen and one senior on the roster, the Sullivan North girls basketball team has spent most of the season just trying to survive.
On Thursday night, however, the Lady Raiders thrived.
Senior guard Shania Leonard sparked the decisive run that put North up 31-14 at halftime and the Lady Raiders cruised to a 65-41 victory over Tri-Cities Christian.
For North coach Jim Barker, the second quarter was a sight for sore eyes. The Lady Raiders hit their last five shots and outscored the Lady Eagles 22-8 in the period to take control of the game.
“When we play Betsy or South or someone that is really good, and they get up on us, we kind of shrink back,” Barker said. “But tonight I saw that turn around in the second quarter and a light went on. All of it came together at the same time, and it was kind of cool to see.”
North’s surge was a direct result of pressure defense. The Lady Raiders forced 14 turnovers and held Tri-Cities to 13 percent shooting from the field in the first half . Many of those turnovers led directly to transition points for North.
“We’ve been trying to teach these girls to play a little bit tougher on defense and use that defense to get us some offense,” Barker said. “That’s what we were able to do.”
The Lady Raiders benefited from some foul trouble that plagued the Lady Eagles in the second quarter. With a couple of his leading players stuck on the bench, Tri-Cities coach Brandon Stamper could only look on as North transformed Lady Eagle miscues into points.
“Our problem right now is we’re thin,” Stamper said. “When we get into foul trouble and we go deeper into the bench, it’s difficult for them to respond right now. They’re having to grow up fast.”
North (4-10) was able to come out in the third quarter and extend its lead to 49-27 heading into the final period. Tri-Cities (7-5) played better in the second half, but wasn’t able to get back into the contest.
Leonard led the Lady Raiders with 17 points with eight of those coming during the decisive second quarter. Shenoah Bradley scored 13 points and Rhealyn Salyers added 11 for North.
After scoring just two points in the first half, Becca Cox bounced back to lead the Lady Eagles with 14 points. Cat Rosenbalm finished with 11 points after only managing to score three before halftime.
Although a meeting with Elizabethton looms tonight, Barker said he was happy with the strides his team made on Thursday.
“I’m so proud of my girls and they’re so happy,” he said.