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Trojan girls fall to visiting Lions

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New Castle’s Alyssa “Peanut” Semler (5) goes in for a lay-up against the defense of Rushville’s Abby Buckley (3) and Taylor Browning (23) during Friday night’s girls basketball game in the Fieldhouse. Semler scored 14 points in the Trojans’ 67-53 loss to the visiting Lions.
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New Castle’s Cameron Tabor (20) launches a shot against the defense of Rushville’s Maddi Turner (4) during Friday night’s girls basketball game in the Fieldhouse. Tabor scored 22 points, but theTrojans lost to the visiting Lions 67-53.

By RON GREESON - For The Courier-Times

Rushville’s veteran Lady Lions took control when crunch time came during Friday night's girls basketball game in the Fieldhouse.

Host New Castle was putting up a spirited fight in varsity girls hoops, but the visitors pulled away in the final eight minutes to win 67-53 over the Lady Trojans.

Rushville won its season opener on the road while New Castle fell to 1-1 in the season’s first week.

In the battle of state-ranked Class 3A teams, it was a more experienced Lady Lion team that prevailed over a Lady Trojan squad with a lot of new players still getting used to playing together.

Rushville’s top three scorers Friday night had all played together for either three or four years, and the difference was noticeable.

The very successful veteran coach for the Lady Lions, Melissa Marlow, started her 19th year at the helm, and her varsity team won game number 261 Friday night. Young Molly Swift is a first-year coach for New Castle, and her team again did many good things on the home hardwood, but the foe was just too experienced and talented in this matchup.

The game started with turnovers and nervous play on both sides before the host's Molly Alspaugh got the first basket of the night to put the Lady Trojans ahead early.

But Rushville responded quickly to pull ahead at 8-5, then later in the quarter to 12-8 and 14-10 at the first break.

The Lady Lions employed the program’s typical aggressive, man-to-man defense, with senior Allie Smith taking the first turn of shadowing Trojan senior standout Cameron Tabor. Tabor was forced into an uncharacteristic 1-of-8 from the floor in the first eight minutes, recording just three points on lone step-back trey, one which was contested.

It was a sign of things to come in the game for the Division I Davidson recruit.

Meanwhile, senior Taylor Browning got off to a hot start for Rushville, scoring seven of her team’s 14 points in the initial eight minutes. The 5-10 senior post player would scorch the nets for 27 points by night’s end to be the game’s leading scorer.

New Castle senior Alyssa “Peanut” Semler hit both of her first quarter fielders, one trey and one deuce, on the way to a 14-point game, providing a second scoring threat.

Tabor had her best scoring stretch of the night in the second quarter, hitting four of six fielders including three treys, to record 10 of the host’s 20 markers in the quarter, and New Castle was within one at 31-30 at intermission.

Semler had seven of the other 10 points, while Cloie York hit 3-of-4 charity tosses to keep the Trojans right in the game.

But Coach Marlow had a defensive wrinkle for New Castle when the home team had possession of the ball to start the second half.

Rushville came out in a box-and-one defense, with Smith as the chaser on Tabor to start. A quick turnover resulted, and the Lions converted on an old-fashioned three-point play by Rushville freshman Olivia Yager. Another two-point field goal pushed the Lion lead to 36-30 just over three minutes into the third quarter.

Enter Trojan freshman Karsen Morgan.

She was inserted in the game to shoot from long range against the Lion defense focusing on Tabor, which left long-range shot opportunities for other Trojan players.

All Morgan did was hit her first two treys, and the home team narrowed the deficit to just two points late in the slower-paced third quarter.

A late bucket pushed Rushville ahead 47-43 at the end of the third quarter, with the Trojans still right in the game.

But Browning had hit all three two point field goal attempts in that third period, pushing her point total to 20 in the game, and her classmate Smith and junior teammate Tori Campbell joined in the offensive production as Rushville pulled away in the opening minute of the final quarter.

A Smith trey made it 50-43, then a conventional three-point play from Campbell got the lead to double digits. Three more fielders by Browning followed soon.

For the game, Browning hit 10-of-15 field goals, all five three throws, scoring 25, to go along with 11 rebounds, unofficially.

Also for 20th-ranked Rushville, Campbell had 11 points and 10 boards, unofficially. Browning is a senior three-year letter winner, with Campbell a junior who has earned letters in both of her previous years as a high school player.

Smith is also a senior, multi-year letterwinner, and the trio not only combined for 50 points, but controlled the ball and the game almost entirely in the final eight minutes in pulling away for the impressive road win.

Tabor led New Castle with 22 points, but could hit only 7-of-22 field goal attempts against a swarming Rushville defense. She hit just a pair of two-point field goals and didn’t get to the free throw line until the fourth quarter, hitting 3-of-4 free throws.

York missed all of her field goals, but converted 5-of-6 charity tosses, while Semler hit five of her first seven field goal attempts, and both free throws for 14 points. But York and Semler were just a combined 1-for-8 in the second half. New Castle had just 23 points after intermission.

"They (Rushville) lost just one significant player from last year’s team, and that showed tonight (Friday),” first-year New Castle varsity Head Coach Molly Swift said after the game. “It is an experienced team, and we are just learning to play together.”

But Coach Swift saw some positives in the contest.

“I am really excited with how our freshmen (Morgan, Maddy Meek and Ashlynn Clouse) played tonight, and what this team can become during the season,” Swift added. “And Alyssa Semler had a great game. This was a good learning experience for our team.”

New Castle opens Hoosier Heritage Conference play Tuesday night at Pendleton Heights.

Rushville 67, New Castle 53

RUSHVILLE (67)

Buckley 1-2 0-0 3, Turner 1-1 0-0 2, Smith 4-7 0-0 11, A. Marlow 1-5 1-2 3, Browning 10-15 5-5 27, Campbell 5-11 2-5 12, Miller 0-0 0-0 0, Yager 2-3 1-1 5, Runnebohm 2-4 0-0 4. Totals: 26-48 9-13 67.

NEW CASTLE (53)

McGowan 1-4 0-0 2, York 0-8 5-6 5, Semler 5-10 2-2 14, A. Clouse 0-0 0-0 0, Morgan 2-6 2-2 8, Bridgeman 0-1 0-0 0, Meek 0-1 0-0 0, Tabor 7-22 3-4 22, Alspaugh 1-1 0-0 2. Totals: 16-53 12-14 53.

Rushville`14`17`16`20`-67

New Castle`10`20`13`10`-53

3-point goals – Rushville 6 (Smith 3, Browning 2, Buckley), New Castle 9 (Tabor 5, Semler 2, Morgan 2). Rebounds – Rushville 32 (Browning 11, Campbell 10), New Castle 20 (Tabor 9). Total fouls – Rushville 13, New Castle 13. Fouled out – McGowan. Turnovers – Rushville 16, New Castle 11. JV score – Rushville 37, New Castle 25. Records – Rushville 1-0, New Castle 1-1.