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Pittsburg at Louisburg

In its first game after losing four starters from a year ago, there were times where Louisburg High School girls basketball team looked like a seasoned club.

The Lady Cats jumped out to a double digit lead in the first half thanks to an offensive burst against Pittsburg on Friday in their season opener.

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Then came the second half where both teams filled up the stat sheet with turnovers.

“I kept asking the official, ‘This has to be the first game, right?’” Louisburg coach Shawn Lowry said. “It was, and those are some things you expect from a young team first team out.”

However, the Lady Cats accomplished something a lot of others didn’t expect – a victory. Despite a late charge from the Class 5A school, Louisburg held on for a 46-43 win and got its season off on the right foot.

“It felt so good,” junior Carson Buffington said. “I know there are a lot of people out there who are doubting us, but it felt so good to prove that we can do it and that we are actually a pretty good team.”

Buffington, the team’s lone returning starter, couldn’t have asked for a better start to her season as she was three steals shy of a triple-double. She finished with a team-high 12 points and 13 rebounds to go along with seven steals.

Louisburg’s other team captain, senior Isabelle Holtzen, rose to the occasion as well as she added seven points, six rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocks.

As a team, the Lady Cats forced 25 turnovers that included 14 steals and four blocked shots. Defensively, Louisburg held Pittsburg to 28 points through three quarters.

“The defense did play well at times, but we have a lot of stuff to work on rotation wise,” Lowry said. “Our veterans in Carson and Isabelle really stepped up at different times for us and we are going to learn a lot from this win.”

The Lady Cats (1-0) got help from several other players as well.

Louisburg freshman Madilyn Melton goes up for two of her nine points Friday against Pittsburg.

Freshman Madilyn Melton came off the bench to score nine points in her first varsity game and added seven rebounds. Sophomore Haley Cain scored seven points, while senior Bailey Belcher made her varsity debut and scored seven points as well. Sophomore point guard Carlee Gassman added four points.

“It was great to get a win, at home, and in our season opener,” Lowry said. “We had a great crowd and a great student section and it was a lot of fun. For what we are right now, we learned so much throughout this game and grew up so much. Them watching film on their mistakes is going to be so awesome for them and understanding their responsibilities.”

Louisburg got off to a quick start as it took an 8-2 lead on baskets from Belcher, Gassman and a 3-pointer from Buffington, who knocked down three in the game. Pittsburg eventually whittled the lead down to one, before Cain hit a jumper at the buzzer to give Louisburg momentum into the second quarter.

The Lady Cat built their lead to start the second as they went on a 10-1 run that was keyed by a pair of 3-pointers from Holtzen. Melton ended the run with a steal and score to put Louisburg up 10 points and took a 32-23 lead at halftime.

“Everyone played really well and stepped up,” Buffington said. “It is amazing to see how far we have come since we started practice two weeks ago.”

Both teams took a step back in the third quarter as the defenses took over as Louisburg and Pittsburg combined to commit 21 turnovers during the eight minute stretch.

Point guard Carlee Gassman puts up a shot in the lane Friday in the Lady Cats’ win over Pittsburg.

“The first half was good offensively, but we knew that team over there (Pittsburg) is a good team and they are well coached and that it was going to be a battle in the second half,” Lowry said. “It was a sloppy, slow third quarter and it probably wasn’t a lot of fun to watch.”

Louisburg held a 42-30 lead with four minutes left in the contest, before Pittsburg turned up the pressure and forced the Lady Cats into eight turnovers. The Purple Dragons whittled the Lady Cats’ lead down to three, but Louisburg wouldn’t let them get any closer.

“They persevered and they were tough through adversity,” Lowry said of his team. “They did the things that you hope for as a coach and that you constantly talk to them about and it is up to them to pull through. They were faced with adversity and making a lot of mistakes that a young, immature team will make, but they got through it and came together.”

The schedule doesn’t get easier for the Lady Cats this week as they take part in the Wildcat-Bulldog Classic at Baldwin High School. Louisburg will face Burlington today and will play Baldwin tomorrow before finishing up with Anderson County on Friday. Burlington and Baldwin are both ranked in the top 10 in Class 4A-Division II.

“This is the last year for the tournament, so the girls are looking forward to playing in it one more time,” Lowry said. “Burlington is always well-coached and a really good team that returns a lot from last year. They do a lot of things that we will have to prepare for. Baldwin is one of the best teams in 4A and Anderson County is always a scrappy team, so it should be a fun tournament.”

 

LOU               14           18           6             8 – 46

PITT               11           12           5             15 – 43

LOUISBURG (1-0): Carson Buffington 4-7 1-2 12; Madilyn Melton 2-7 4-6 9; Bailey Belcher 3-13 1-4 7; Haley Cain 3-10 1-6 7; Isabelle Holtzen 2-6 1-3 7; Carlee Gassman 1-7 2-5 4. Totals: 15-54 10-26 46. 3-point field goals: 6, (Buffington 3, Holtzen 2, Melton).