Nina Shaffer shows out, leads CVCA with 17 points
Lots of anticipation for this one, these two were Co-Champs in the PAC last year along with Tuslaw, and their first meeting went to OT. For all the excitement, it was a slow start. Northwest not only struggled to get the ball into the paint, the Royals pressure made it hard for them to get anything going to start the game, and much of the first half.
Turns out all the Royals needed was a little Nina. Nina showed up big in the first quarter, scoring all eight of the Royals points as they held a slim 8-6 lead after eight minutes. Shaffer showed a variety of ways to score. Her midrange jumper broke the 0-0 barnburner, her three gave the Royals their second shot in the arm. The lefty also had several nice finishes with her right hand to help keep the Royals up. All in all the sophomore PG, who reminds me a lot of West Liberty superstar Audrey Tingle, finished with 17 points, and a half dozen great defensive hustle plays.
It took Northwest four minutes to get on the board, and when they did it was Lily Bottomley who gave them a few quick baskets, to go along with her four first quarter blocks. The 6’3″ sophomore center struggled with foul trouble in the first meeting between these two, but was very good at avoiding those fouls today.
Despite having some transition turnovers I know Coach Lower wasn’t happy with, in normal Northwest fashion they hit right back. Carly Spradlings’ free throws gave the Indians their first lead of the game early in the 2nd quarter. That lead changed hands a few times before the Royals extended it a bit at the half. The first points of the game from Royals leading scorer Gia Casalinova gave CVCA the lead back, just to be tied up again at 14 each. back to back three’s from Bettinger and Hajdu gave the Royals a commanding 20-14 lead that they extended to 24-14 at the break.
Northwest was not done. They came out hot and got the first three buckets of the half, cutting the deficit to 24-20. Then Nina Shaffer ended the run with a trey, Kylie Bettenger hit the 2nd of her three treys, and Sidney Marshall ended the quarter with a jumper that extended the Royals lead back to 10 heading into the final quarter.
When it looked like the CVCA Royals were going to run away with this thing, Northwest gave it one last push, one that fell a point short. Ashley Cudnik hit back to back treys to trim a 14 point lead down to a 36-28 score. Spradlings’ old fashioned three point play cut it to five before the last of Kylie Bettingers’ timely three’s. The Indians kept pushing while the Royals spread the floor and forced Northwest to defend. Northwest ended up cutting it to a single point, gave themselves chances to tie or win it, but couldn’t quite get something to get them there.
Northwest defended Casalinova well and held her considerably below her average, but let Bettinger drop in 9 points all behind the arc. Lily Bottomley led the Indians with 14 points, Spradling added 11 and Cudnik chipped in 10.
This knots the PAC up with these two teams having a loss, while Tuslaw has lost to both of these squads. The Mustangs are slated to play CVCa on January 30th and travel to Northwest on February 6th. Could Tuslaw really make this crazy again and split with CVCA and Northwest? Or play spoiler and upset one or the other? Is there another team who may play spoiler in the league? We shall find out…