BY DARREN REESE
Sun sports editor
After losing three senior starters from last year's team, some wondered how the North Greene girls would fair in 2013-14.
The answer? Just fine.
The Lady Huskies rolled to a 48-29 win over University High Saturday night to wrap up the District 1-A regular season championship.
North Greene has a one-game lead over South Greene in the standings with one district game left to play. The Lady Huskies have already swept South Greene this year, meaning North Greene will be the outright district champions for the first time in the 13-year tenure of head coach James Buchanan.
"To get first is really something we've never done," Buchanan said. "We split it the year we went to state, but we've never had it all to our own."
"That's good, and we are certainly happy with that, but we sure aren't satisfied. If they would trade me a region championship for this one right here, I would take it in a heart beat. Still, it's a good accomplishment for the kids."
Mendy McNeese, North Greene's leading scorer on the season, was limited to nine points, but other Lady Huskies stepped up to the challenge.
Lauren Baxter recorded a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds. Kristen Payne and Katelyn
Weems each added 10 points, while Taylor Payne recorded a career-high 18 rebounds.
"I feel like everybody is contributing right now, and that's been the big thing for us," Baxter said. "Whenever we need somebody to hit a shot or make a play, somebody does. We are just playing well as a team."
North Greene didn't have its best shooting performance - making 18 of 47 shots from the field, including 5 of 24 on three-point tries - but that was somewhat to be expected, considering the they exerted a tremendous amount of emotion and energy in a big 46-41 win over No. 6 Cloudland less than 24 hours earlier.
Buchanan's pregame speech to his team Saturday was simply not to overlook University High. He thought the Lady Huskies.
"We didn't shoot the ball well tonight, but we filled it up last night," Buchanan said. "You aren't going to be able to do that every night."
"I'm not making any excuses, but we aren't in very good game shape right now due to having a long layoff because of the snow. We had about a five-day break. I think that really showed tonight. We didn't have that problem last night against Cloudland because I think adrenaline carried us through that one."
North Greene held on to a slim 11-9 lead when McNeese sank an acrobatic underhanded layup at the first-quarter buzzer for her first points of the night.
It was all Lady Huskies from there as they opened the second with an 11-4 run that included three-pointers from both of the Payne twins and a third from McNeese.
Kristen Payne added another trey late in the period and North Greene settled into a 28-17 cushion at the break.
University High, who was routed by South Greene 68-36 a night earlier, made just 1-of-12 shots in the third quarter to completely fall off the pace.
North Greene did a good job of limiting the Lady Bucs' second-chance opportunities. Taylor Payne single-handedly outrebounded University High in the second half, 14-12.
Buchanan sat his starters pretty much the entire fourth quarter.
Taylor Treadway finished with 12 points and 12 rebounds for University High.
"We are just getting contributions from so many people," Buchanan said. "Teams focus so much on Mendy, and that gives opportutnies to other girls. We also got a lot of good things out of our bench tonight, and that was good to see."
The Lady Huskies improved to 19-9 overall and 8-1 in the district. They will close out league play Tuesday with a home game against Hampton, and will be back at the Huskies Den Friday to conclude the regular season against West Greene.
"Last year we had a good season but didn't finish as well as we would have like," Baxter said. "Hopefully we can change that once we get to the tournaments this year."
UH Wins BOYS GAME IN OT
The North Greene boys erased a nine-point deficit heading into the fourth quarter but were unable to finish off the comeback as they fell the University High in overtime, 63-62, Saturday night.
Brett Bolton finished with 17 points, 13 of which came after halftime, to pace North Greene. He scored five points in the overtime period, which was all the offense for the Huskies in the extra frame.
Tyler Bailey followed with 10 points, Will West nine and Troy Hall eight. North Greene was 21-of-29 from the free-throw line.
Marcus Taylor gunned in 26 points to lead the Bucs to victory. Nate Berning and Joseph Phillips each contributed 12 points. Phillips made all of his on three-pointers, including a trio in the first quarter.
University High led for the majority of the first quarter, but the Huskies rallied to tie the game at 16-16 on a basket by Tanner Collins early in the second.
Bailey followed with a jumper to put his team breifly in front, but the Bucs stormed back to take a 27-22 lead at the break.
Taylor scored eight points in the third as University High increased its lead to 44-35 through three.
North Greene answered with a 20-point outburst in the fourth to tie the game at 55-all. Five different players scored for the Huskies in the frame, led by Bolton with six points and West with five.
The Huskies fall to 3-6 in District 1-A and 12-16 overall. University High is now 3-5 and 10-12, respectively.