The Hickman girls’ basketball team did something Tuesday night it did only twice last season: lose.
The young Kewpies showed enough heart to overcome Notre Dame de Sion in their season opener but couldn’t handle the Storm’s pressure defense in a 55-42 loss at Hickman Gym.
Notre Dame de Sion extended its stingy man-to-man defense the entire court most of the game, stymieing Hickman’s offense. Hickman shot 18-of-53 from the field on the night.
“They pressured very hard and we weren’t really able to enter the ball into where we wanted to go,” senior Megan McCabe said. “We got a little frustrated in the first half.”
Considering McCabe is the lone senior on a squad that graduated all five starters from last year’s state runner-up, coach Tonya Mirts was more than pleased with her team’s efforts.
“We feel great,” Mirts said. “With graduation, almost nobody but Megan had played, and to be in a game with a team like de Sion is tremendous.”
The Storm, who return four starters from a team that made last year’s state quarterfinal round, went on a 9-0 run to start the second quarter after a Sade’ Aaron runner tied the game at 16 at the end of the first. Their run came amid a flurry of Kewpie turnovers that led to easy buckets on the other end. The Kewpies managed seven second-quarter points and faced an eight-point halftime deficit.
Hickman again started slow in the second half allowing Notre Dame de Sion to widen the lead to 41-28 before Lauren Nolke hit back-to-back 3-pointers to end the third quarter.
McCabe then cut the lead to five on a 3-point play when she pump faked, penetrated the left side and converted the layup as she was fouled. The Storm answered with a 7-0 run that included two 3-pointers from Amanda Barnard, though, and the game never was back within Hickman’s reach.
McCabe finished with nine points, seven rebounds and five assists and said she enjoys her leadership role.
“Of course there’s a lot of pressure on me. I’m coming into the season with the most experience, and the girls are really looking up to me,” McCabe said.
Adding to the pressure is a position change from wing to point guard. Mirts thinks she has the potential to step into the role.
“Megan’s really not a point,” Mirts said. “She’s never played point ever in her entire basketball career and now she’s a senior and I say ‘go play point.’ She’s the best athlete we have with the most experience handling the ball, and she’s going to get a lot better at making decisions.”
The performance of Nolke also had her coach excited. A sophomore guard, Nolke scored 17 points on 7-16 from the field in her first varsity action. Nolke said she settled down quickly despite getting her first start.
“We definitely had nerves in the beginning, all of us were a little nervous, but as we started playing it really worked itself out,” Nolke said. “Once I started making it I felt pretty good. That’s what I’m told to do; it’s important that we shoot it when we get open looks.”
Mirts, who is accustomed to having good wings following four years of Kaela Rorvig, Jodi Bolerjack and Amy Bolerjack, was confident Nolke could step in.
“She’s been in the shadows waiting for her opportunity,” Mirts said. “She’s a scorer, she’s a shooter, that’s her role on the team and that’s what she looks to do. And she’s going to keep shooting.”
The Kewpies point to their fight in the second half as a sign of things to come; improvement as the season goes on.
“I’m sure we’re going to get better, it’s the first game of the season and we have until March,” McCabe said. “We’ll be in this gym everyday getting better.”
Said Mirts: “The experience that we had tonight was a greater learning experience than anything that can happen in practice.”