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Third quarter stall proves costly as RV Benson County girls fall to No. 9 Carrington

Jack Williams
Devils Lake Journal
Benson County junior forward/guard Quinn	Neppl lays up a basket past a L/E/M defender in a game against L/E/M on Dec. 14.

Odds and evens were the name of the game for the Wildcats. In the second and fourth quarters, Benson County challenged Carrington, taking a lead in the second and breakdown a Cardinal lead in the final minutes of the game, giving them a window to win.

However, in the first and third quarters, the Wildcats stalled on offense and began to tire out on defense. While the even quarters saw Benson County control the game, the odd quarters saw the team struggle to combat Carrington's attack on both ends of the court.

While a 16 point fourth-quarter performance by junior guard Quinn Neppl would make things interesting late, RV Benson County's (2-1) deficit was too much to make up as they would drop their first game of the season to No. 9 Carrington (5-0), 63-57.  

"It was a tough loss," Wildcats head coach Kent Neppl said. "We went flat halfway through the third quarter. We came out strong in the third right away, made a run, took a lead, and then went dormant for a while. That hurt us." 

Benson County came out as the stronger team in the early third quarter. Quinn Neppl, who had already downed eight points in the first half, would down nine points in the quarter, handing the Wildcats their first lead of the game. Her efforts were complemented by junior forward Hailey Maddock, who would drain five points early on in the quarter.

Then the scoring stopped for the Wildcats and the fouls began to add up. Carrington would go on a 12-0 run to not only take back the lead but to extend it to as many as 15 points. A 3-ball from junior forward/guard Desidy Schwanke would cut off the run and cut the Cardinals' lead to eight. In the quarter, the Wildcats would end up committing five fouls, resulting in Carrington shooting 6-7 at the line. 

"We were tired," Neppl said. "We worked hard, got a little winded and we fell behind. They [Carrington] also didn't miss free throws. That was the game. We were 9-18 for free throws and they were 22-25 on free throws and we lost by six." 

Senior forward/center Kearyn Nelsen attempts a free throw in a game against L/E/M on Dec. 14 at Leeds High School.

Carrington shot for 88 percent from the line, with Kenzie Edland capitalizing the most, down 7-8 shots at the charity stripe. Another player that shot heavy, on and off the line, was Sydnie Grager, who knocked down a team-high 20 points. The center was a weapon in the post for Carrington as she racked up nine points in the first half alone under the net. 

"We went full front on her with the backside defense ready to help," Neppl said. "It worked pretty well the first half with points, but in the second she got 10. It went well guarding her, but we were a little late getting over to her and that hurt us. She does a good job finishing at the rim." 

At the same time, Quinn Neppl paced the offense throughout the game. She would finish with an overall high of 32 points, draining four of Benson County's nine shots from outside the arc. Neppl played a major role in the Wildcats' late-game comeback as she would down a trey in the final minute, cutting Carrington's lead down to four. However, the Cardinals quickly responded off a layup from Grager to shut the door. 

"I wasn't happy that we were down by 13 points, but I was happy that we were able to pull within five," Neppl said. "They didn't give up. It was a nine-point game for a while, but then we cut it back in. We're going to have a good year if we keep working this hard and stay healthy." 

Following Quinn Neppl was Schwanke with 13 and junior forward Hailey Maddock, who neared double figures with nine points. One aspect of the game that was keeping the Wildcats in it was the team's 3-point shooting. The Wildcats downed 9-14 from deep, seeing five of those shots coming in the second half. Opposite Benson County, Carrington only downed one shot from outside the arc in the game. 

"It was about getting the ball and going," Neppl said. "When you nail nine 3-pointers, it keeps things interesting. We had just about as many 3's as we had 2's. We had nine 3's and 10 2's. It's not too often that happens." 

While the Wildcats shot well, they are still looking to up their overall defensive game as Neppl said having your opponent pass 50 points is not ideal. Benson County is aiming to push their opponents on the defensive end up and down the court, more than they are already doing. In avoiding the fouls while pressuring, the Wildcats are looking to find strength through conditioning and communication. 

In playing a few games during the holiday break, Benson County's schedule will tighten up in the coming week as they play Harvey/Wells County and Dunseith in back to back matchups. Two days later, the Wildcats play Warwick and Park River in back to back games. According to Neppl, he is expecting more of a challenge in this stretch as Harvey/Wells has pushed the Wildcats over the past few seasons.

"My numbers are so low it's going to be hard to go in back to back games, but we need to find a way to get other kids into the game," Neppl said. "Harvey has always given us fits in the past. They're an aggressive, hard-nosed, physical team and we have to match that physicality. They have a bench and can run eight, nine kids and we don't have that."

In heading into a challenging stretch, the Wildcats believe that they can come out of ita stronger team by focusing on the thing they lacked on Wednesday: defense. 

"Altogether I want us to be an overall solid, defensive team," Neppl said. "We need to limit their [opponents] second chances and I want to push that ball. If we can't score in transition, I want to score on the half court game by moving the ball and working hard." 

Jack Williams covers Lake Region sports and general news for the Devils Lake Journal. Contact him via email at JGWilliams1@gannett.com, on Twitter @jackgwilliams, or phone at 701-662-2127.

Benson County vs. Carrington stats 

Carrington - 14,16, 17, 16 - 63 

Benson County - 8, 17, 13, 19 - 57

Carrington (4-0): Grager - 7 6-7 20, Hagel 5 4-4 14, Wolsky 3 6-6 12, Edland 1 7-8 9, 

Page 2 0-0 7, Schroeder 1 0-0 2 Totals 19 22-25 63 

Benson County (2-1): Neppl 6 8-11 32, Schwanke 1 2-5 13, Maddock 3 0-0 9, Williams 0 0-0 3. Totals 10 9-18 57 

3-pointers: Carrington 1 (Page 1). Benson County 9 (Neppl 4, Schwanke 3, Maddock 1, Williams 1)