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Defensive-minded Edmond North pulls away in fourth quarter to hoist Mustang Holiday Classic girls title

In matchup of defending state champions, 6A champion North defeats Class A champion Seiling

By Michael Kinney    

MUSTANG - One sign of a great team is that even on nights when they are not at their best, they can still walk away with a comfortable win.

While some squads do this by finding ways to score, Edmond North focuses on the defensive end of the court. This was the case in the Bank 7 Holiday Classic championship game.

After a second straight game in which they stumbled in the first half, the defending 6A state champion Huskies picked up their defense in the second half to earn a 62-49 victory over Class A Seiling to claim the tournament title for the second straight year.

Elle Papahronis, who was named the tournament MVP, credited the team’s defensive mindset for the victory.

“I wouldn't want to play against our defense,” Papahronis said. “We really take pride in it and I'm not trying to sound arrogant or anything.

"I really do think we're one of the best defensive teams in the state and it's because Coach (Pete Papahronis) is really like picky about how we play and it's like if we don't do one rotation, we'll hear about it in practice. So, I think our defense does cause turmoil for the other teams.”

The Huskies (10-0) were expecting a tough battle from No. 1 Seiling (7-1), the defending Class A state champions which came into the game undefeated.

“They're a great team, a great program,” North coach Pete Papahronis said. “They got a history and all they know how to do is win.

"Class size doesn't really matter when you're talking about caliber teams. We knew it'd be difficult. We knew they were fundamentally well-coached.”

Seiling showed that to start the game when they actually took an 18-17 lead on North. While it wasn’t the first time the Huskies had been down this season, it was the manner in which they were playing that had Papahronis concerned.

“We don't usually allow teams to score 18 points in the first quarter, but they were knocking shots down left and right,” Coach Papahronis said. “We did a little bit better in the second and fourth.

"But in the first and third quarters, I don't know if we prepared too much for those quarters. We didn't do a good job on that.”

Despite that, North found itself leading by 18 points in the third quarter. It looked like they were going to do what they normally do and grind down the Cats on their way to a blowout.

However, Seiling showed they are made of something different. They clawed their way back into the game with defense and 3-point shooting.

When Braci Nyberg hit a 3-pointer to start the fourth quarter, it cut the gap to 50-46. However, the Huskies’ KK Peeler answered on the ensuing possession with a 3-pointer of her own to make sure the game got no closer.

Seiling suffered a blow when Nyberg fouled out with 5:57 left in the game and trailing 54-47. That left Kenly Gore to be the main ballhandler and offensive threat.

The Huskies’ defense began to force the Cats into turnovers, which they were able to take advantage of.

Edmond North reestablished their offense by running the clock down and then going to Laci Steele. After being slowed in the first half due to foul trouble for the second straight night, she went on a run late in the game to give North a 61-49 advantage and put the game away.

“I think we're still getting used to our lineup because we did lose a couple of seniors,” Elle Papahronis said. “So I think we haven't really had to deal with a key player being out. I think we're all just getting used to filling those shoes.

"But I think once we figured it out, then we were fine and the score took care of itself.”

The Cats were paced by Nyberg, who scored 16 points on 5-of-13 shooting. Gore added 10 points, five assists and four rebounds.

As a team, Seiling made 7-of-17 from the 3-point line. However, North only allowed them to attempt five shots from behind the arc in the second half.

North won the rebounding edge, 33-22, and forced the Cats into 18 turnovers.

Elle Papahronis ended her MVP performance with 18 points, 11 rebounds, three assists, two steals and only one turnover. While she only shot 4-of-14 from the field, she made up for it in every other area.

Despite her foul trouble, Steele still racked up 14 points on 6-of-16 shooting. Allison Heathcock, who was named to the all-tournament team, finished with 16 points and three steals.

“We're not doing our jobs consistently throughout the game,” Pete Papahronis said. “We did have some bad luck. Our best scorer was in foul trouble two games in a row.

"So, my hat's off to the rest of the girls for everybody else stepping up.”