BY ADAM GREENE
GREENEVILLE - It wasn't exactly a barn-burner in the first half at North Greene High School, but the Lady Huskies caught fire in the second. North Greene ended a three-game district skid with a 49-40 win over Unaka Friday night.
The win was key for the Lady Huskies (15-7, 2-3 District 1-A), not only to get them closer to .500 in the conference, but it also avenged a 57-44 loss at Unaka (10-11, 2-2) back before the Christmas break.
"We've been losing a lot here lately and the fourth quarter has been killing us," North Greene guard Mendy McNeese said. "I was tired of losing so it was time to step up and start contributing. It ended right."
McNeese took over the game in the final period. The Lady Huskies took a 32-24 lead into the fourth, but four minutes in they'd lost it and were down by a point. Jessie Matheson hit two big three pointers for the Lady Rangers in the fourth, with Brandi Ensor and Alicia Colbough scoring four apiece. Ensor finished the game with 10 points. Colbough had 12.
"We got a little bit of a lead and they (Unaka) started playing how they're comfortable playing," North Greene coach James Buchanan said. "They pushed it and took early shots. Once they started scoring, I knew we'd be shooting free throws or getting some transition baskets. That gave the game a little faster pace."
McNeese and post Laiken Morrow, who missed the first match up with the Lady Rangers due to injury, benefited from the quick transition points. Morrow scored eight in the game, all in the second half and hit two big threes from the top of the key.
McNeese did her damage from the wings, finishing with a game-high 15 points.
"This week in practice we worked on boxing out and transition defense and it really paid off that second half," McNeese said. "We stopped their offensive putbacks and got those defensive rebounds."
While both teams got their offenses going in the second half, the first was a slog. Neither squad managed double-digits in the first two quarters and North Greene took a 14-13 lead into the half.
"When you play these conference games, especially the second time, everybody is so familiar with each other," Buchanan said. "Everybody does a great job scouting in our league and preparing their kids. I figured on a low-scoring game early."
Dariane Bailey scored 13 points for the Lady Huskies. Kaitlyn Weems had seven.
North Greene hosts Greeneville tonight with tip off scheduled for 6:30 p.m.