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Cougars’ pressure breaks rival Jets

Kenton Ridge freshman Sydney Bates said she wasn’t anxious about her first tournament game. Two early 3-pointers and 21 points later it was obvious she was right.

“Being with this team I wasn’t too nervous because these girls are supportive and we work really well as a team,” Bates said. “There’s a lot of senior leadership and a lot of comfort.”

Playing with a comfortable lead most of the game, the second-seeded Cougars rolled to a 75-28 victory Thursday night over rival Northeastern in a Division II sectional opener at Tecumseh High School.

Bates averages 11.8 points a game and is the team’s second-leading scorer behind senior Paige McCrary, but it’s not unusual for Bates or a number of other players to be the leading scorer. McCrary finished with 17 and Sara Thornton scored 15. On another night, it could be guards Stefanie Davis, Baylee Bennett or Aianna Wilson scoring in double figures.

“It’s nice having different people that can score because no team can shut us down,” Bates said. “We always have someone to step up.”

Kenton Ridge (19-4) plays at 6 p.m. Wednesday against No. 10 Greenville (12-10) in the sectional semifinals at Tecumseh.

With 19 victories, the Cougars are just one short of equaling last season’s total for a team that included Division I college recruits Mariah Harris and Lindsey Fenwick and reached the district tournament. This year’s team, while experienced, still has several young players and is smaller than usual. Against Greenville, the Cougars will have to match up against two 6-foot-2 players, including Megan Galloway, who will play in college at Detroit Mercy.

Amanda Raber led a young Northeastern (3-20) team with 13 points and helped the 14th-seeded Jets hang around at 22-12 early in the second quarter. Then the Cougars’ press took over and forced turnovers for two easy baskets to fuel a 13-0 run for a 35-12 lead that grew to 42-14 by halftime.

“Once we upped our intensity and tried to trap, that changed the game,” Cougars coach Ed Foulk said.

Bates led the first-half surge with 16 points and Thornton scored nine.

The Cougars dominated with half-court defense to start the second half with four straight fast-break baskets — two of them started on steals by Thornton — to build the lead to 50-16. Thornton scored six points in the run.

“On our team it’s just balanced scoring,” Foulk said. “You never know who it’s going to be.”

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