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Lady Wildcats open new season with a split

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HARTINGTON — It will take some time to figure things out, but otherwise the HartingtonNewcastle Lady Wildcat girls basketball team is aiming for a good season.

The season began with a 56-35 loss to state-rated Ponca and the first week wrapped with a solid 36-25 win over Osmond.

Alivia Morten scored 16 points to lead the Lady Wildcats in the Ponca contest with Kayden Jueden adding eight points and 12 rebounds.

Jueden paced HNS with 13 points in the Osmond win, while Morten complimented her teammate with nine points.

Things didn’t start off well in the opener as Ponca earned a 14-0 lead before Keanna Korth put the Lady Cats’ first points of the 2020-21 season on the board.

“Against Ponca, we had a slow start in the first quarter,” HNS coach Josh Morten said. “We just couldn’t get things going on the offensive side. I believe we had 10 turnovers in that quarter alone.”

The Lady Cats regrouped after the opening frame.

“From that quarter on we were able to play right with them,” Morten said. “We changed things up defensively going to a man versus zone and that helped us both on the offensive side and defensive side of things.”

In the third quarter, HNS was able to get the game back to within 13 points.

“That proves we can compete with a level like Ponca at times,” he said.

Morten was pleased with his bench, as well.

“We played a lot of girls in the ball game and I see some good things coming from the game,” he said.

Against Osmond, the team played in fits and starts, but an earnest defensive effort made all the difference.

“The game was played pretty evenly throughout the remainder of it,” Coach Morten said. “Once again, we played a lot of girls trying to get girls comfortable with playing. We didn’t play the greatest but were able to get the victory.”

The team has some work to do if it wants to see more Ws,’ he said.

“We need to get better at our bunny shots and we shot very poorly from the free throw line,” he said.

Jueden admits the team is trying to find that perfect balance between the veterans and the plethora of youngsters.

The experiment is similar to how the team molded itself into a pretty good volleyball team.

“We have a lot of the same girls, so it makes it a little bit easier, but we are trying to find our groove,” Jueden said.

“I am glad we got that win under our belt. It wasn’t the prettiest game we could have played, but we are getting it together and I am excited to see how much better we can get and how fast we can improve.”

Jueden admitted the key to the win against Osmond was the team’s ability to stay at a consistent level of effort no matter who checked in.

“They moved the ball well against us and we missed our fair share of easy shots, but we fed off our defense and we really wanted this one and were determined,” Jueden said. “Whoever came in and came off the bench was ready to go and it made it a lot easier.”

Tuesday, the Lady Wildcats battled the visiting Humphrey/ St. Francis, and they travel to Pierce for a 3:30 p.m., Saturday tipoff.

“Pierce is a pretty solid Class Cl team,” Coach Morten said. “We haven’t looked at much film on them yet to really get a good idea on that game.

Even though the team returns four starters from last year’s squad we have a lot of freshman getting some playing time and things are seemingly going decently. We need to get better getting into our offense and scoring. Taking care of the ball is another thing that needs improvement.”

With COVID-19 remaining very relevant and definitely a presence in their backyard having seen Cedar Catholic Just wrap up a two-week quarantine for its seniors - Jueden is well aware of what else the Lady Wildcats face.

“I don’t think we like to talk about it a lot and it takes away a lot of stuff from everybody and it’s draining, but it could happen at any time and things get taken away at any time,” Jueden said. “Any time it could be our last game for a really long time, so you have to be ready for anything to happen more or less with this virus. It’s definitely scary.

“I am not terrified of the virus, but I am scared of it taking senior year away from me and everybody else. I feel really bad for the Cedar seniors - that really had to stink,” Jueden said.

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