SAWYER - The Our Redeemer's Christian School girls basketball team ran North Shore up and down the court Monday, exhausting the Wildcats' short bench before the end of the first half.
The Knights (1-0) scored the first 15 points of the game and used an 18-0 run in the second quarter to open a 22-point halftime lead in a 62-39 victory in the first round of the Sawyer Invite.
"I expected us to come out strong," ORCS eighth-grade guard Morgan Olson said. "We've been having really good practices this year and have been focusing on getting our plays down."
Our Redeemer’s senior forward Emily VanLith follows through on a free throw attempt during Monday’s game against North Shore in the first round of the Sawyer Invite.
Olson led the Knights' uptempo offense with a game-high 21 points, most of which came from fastbreak layups.
"Our whole objective is to try to run as hard as we can and get them tired and hopefully they don't have legs late in the game," ORCS coach Kory Nelson said.
The Knights suffered through a few offensive lapses during brief moments, but North Shore couldn't capitalize due to ORCS' full-court man-to-man defense, which forced a plethora of turnovers in the back court. The Knights limited the Wildcats to 15 first-half points and 16 field goals for the game.
"It left us feeling pretty comfortable," ORCS senior forward Emily VanLith said. "We had to stay aware of them because they are a good team, but we worked hard on our press and that paid off for us."
ORCS never trailed and were never truly threatened by the Wildcats, whose roster includes just seven players compared to Knights' 14. North Shore (0-1) used a 7-0 run stretching into the second quarter to pull within eight before the Knights countered with 18 unanswered points.
"We were rebounding, looking to throw it long or looking to get out and go," Nelson said. "I really like that part of our game. We missed a couple of easy layups, but that's going to come with the season."
Although ORCS has a smaller roster than most Class B teams, the Knights had the rare size advantage with VanLith. The 5-foot-10 forward airballed her first shot attempt of the season at the free -throw line, but laughed it off and finished with 16 points.
"I had to get out some first-game jitters," VanLith said. "You don't worry about the misses and just play to have fun and it comes naturally."
Neither team could find a consistent touch from behind the arch. Olson and Lauren Hendrickson hit the game's only two 3-pointers.
"We do have some really good 3-point shooters on the team, but I really want them to focus on getting the ball down on the block as our momentum is going toward the basket," Nelson said. "That way we can shoot layups and hopefully the other team will condense their defense in and the 3-pointers will be wide open for us."
The score was much closer than the final score indicated as North Shore scored a bulk of its points in the final quarter with ORCS starters sitting on the bench. North Shore's Tessa Walters scored 12 of the Wildcats' 14 points in the fourth quarter. Walters finished with 21 points to lead the Wildcats.
The Knights play Des-Lacs Burlington at 6 p.m. Thursday in the semifinal round. The Lakers defeated tournament-host Sawyer 52-40 in their opening-round game.