BY DARREN REESE
SUN SPORTS EDITOR
The District 1-A girls' race is wide open this year, and two of the heavyweights met Friday night in a cross-county showdown.
In a matchup of the top two teams in the standings, North Greene got 24 points from senior guard Mendy McNeese and out-slugged its way to a 50-45 win over rival South Greene on Rebel Hill.
"It was a good win for us," North Greene head coach James Buchanan said. "We got all 10 kids in and they all played hard. We did a great job on defense, so even some of those kids that didn't score a lot, they played a big part in this victory."
"Those kids from South Greene, they don't know what it is to quit, so we had to play hard for the entire four quarters. They kept coming at us and forced us into some poor decisions there late, so that's something we'll have to look at."
McNeese scored 13 points in the first half and was 7-of-8 from the foul line in the final minutes of the game to help seal the victory. She was hardly the only threat for the Lady Huskies on this night, though.
Lauren Baxter came through with clutch baskets on several occasions on her way to a 13-point effort. She drained a pair of three-pointers in the second quarter after South Greene had jumped out to a six-point lead. She then fired in seven third-quarter points when McNeese was limited to just one shot from the field in the frame.
"We were a little rough getting started," Buchanan said, "but once we made a couple, I thought it loosened us up some."
"We just stayed true to what we do. South Greene was making some shots early as well."
Katelyn Weems - North Greene's second-leading scorer on the season - finished with a quiet nine points, but she was even more of a force on the boards, where she battled the Lady Rebels' physical post players for nine rebounds.
Those were key to limiting South Greene's second-chance opportunities late in the game, according to Buchanan.
"There's going to be games where players don't score as many as they usually do," Buchanan noted. "Nobody has a great scoring game every single night. The thing about Katelyn is, she did so many other things to help the team."
"Her rebounding was huge for us tonight. Her ball handling, her decision making, they way she attacks the defense, those are all huge things for us."
The North Greene win breaks a two-way tie for first place in the district standings between the two Greene County teams. The Lady Huskies (17-9, 6-1) now hold a one-game lead over South Greene (17-8, 5-2) and Cloudland, and are two clear of Hampton. North Greene still has home games left against the latter two teams.
"We have University High before we play Cloudland and Hampton," Buchanan pointed out, "so if we don't come out and take care of business against them, then this win was all for nothing."
"Everybody in the conference has some big games left. We haven't decided anything, but this was a big one for sure."
South Greene remains in the hunt, but is looking for some consistency without starting point guard Ashton Wykle in the line-up. Wykle has been sidelined with a knee injury since the Landair Ladies Classic. During that time, the Lady Rebels are 3-3, including a pair of losses to North Greene.
Alora Ricker finished with 17 points to lead South Greene on this night, though she was limited to just one field goal over the final 22 minutes.
Cheyenne Upton contributed a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds, while Rachel Crum followed with seven points.
Ricker came out on fire and made four shots in a row as point of a 13-point effort in the first half. Her three-pointer at the 6-minute mark of the second quarter put the Lady Rebels up 20-14.
North Greene dialed up long distance to get back in the game, as Baxter made two treys and McNeese added another as part of a 9-2 run that put the visitors up 23-22.
The two teams traded baskets for the rest of the quarter and settled on a 27-27 tie at the break.
Baxter continued her solid performance into the second half as she made five straight points to put the Lady Huskies up for good.
Weems added a three-pointer to give North Greene its biggest lead of the game at 35-27. The Lady Rebels didn't score their first points of the third quarter until Upton got free for a put-back at the 2:03 mark of the period.