NORMAL — Bloomington High School senior Teasha Harris “has the ability to take over a game,” according to girls basketball coach Sondra Findley.
Playing at Intercity and Big 12 Conference rival Normal Community, Harris did just that.
Harris scored a game-high 23 points, including two clutch free throws with 29.7 seconds left, to propel the Purple Raiders to a hard-fought 45-40 victory on Thursday.
“She has that experience where she’s been in so many tight games as a four-year varsity starter,” said Findley, whose team improved to 16-9 overall and 7-3 in Big 12 games. “We needed her leadership tonight and it was there.”
Harris hit a runner in the lane to break a 39-39 tie with just less than three minutes to play, and her late free throws lifted BHS to a 43-40 lead. Demeka Words, who rebounded an errant NCHS 3-pointer on the ensuing possession, made a putback after an Amanda Hainlen offensive rebound with 8 seconds on the clock to put the game out of reach.
“Hainlen and Words got two huge boards, one off a shot and one off a free throw, that we sorely needed,” said Findley. “They (NCHS) very easily could’ve gotten the ball, gone the other way and tied it. Those were two huge rebounds.”
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NCHS (15-10, 6-4) erased a 24-19 halftime deficit by opening the third quarter with a 9-2 run keyed by Katy Seibring and Kristi Schmidt, taking the lead on a Schmidt hoop off a nice assist from Luci Weis.
“You have to shut Schmidt and Seibring down. I thought we did a good job; they combined for only 14 by halftime,” said Findley. “Then they came right out in the third quarter and went on a little run and we had to tighten up again.”
Schmidt, who finished with 16, hit two free throws to open the fourth quarter for the fourth of seven second-half ties, and Seibring followed with a driving basket to give the Ironmen the lead at 34-32.
But Hainlen buried a 3-pointer to put the Raiders back in front. NCHS pulled even on three occasions but could never pull ahead.
“Teasha’s a good player, but you have to then limit their role players,” said NCHS coach Megan Schwefel. “Unfortunately in the end the role players got the rebounds, the steals, the free throws or whatever it was. The role players came through at the end of the game and that hurt us.”
Hainlen finished with six points and five rebounds for BHS. Words added four points and six rebounds.
“I was proud of our four-quarter effort tonight. We’d been seeing three quarters, so we got where we needed to tonight,” said Findley. “Just what you want: Two good conference teams at the end of the season really going at it.”