‘Groovy Shoes’: Lariah Hayes, JuJu Ervin lead North Central sweep of Shadle Park; NC takes sixth-straight ‘Shoes’
Feb. 1, 2023 Updated Wed., Feb. 1, 2023 at 9:48 p.m.
North Central’s Lariah Hayes (25) rebounds against Shadle Park’s Tameira Thompson during Wednesday’s Groovy Shoes game at the Arena. (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)
The Greater Spokane League spirit games at the Arena provide an opportunity for players to participate in games in a professional atmosphere in front of raucous crowds of classmates.
It also presents its share of challenges.
Coaches try to prepare their teams, but there’s no substitute for going through the experience of the bright lights and deafening student crowds of the Arena.
Teams typically struggle early in games to get going, but Wednesday night the North Central and Shadle Park girls teams found out just how difficult the adjustment can be.
At the end of the evening’s festivities, North Central swept the basketball and earned its sixth consecutive win in the spirit competition.
Lariah Hayes scored 15 points, 10 over her season average, and the Wolfpack girls beat the Highlanders 49-38 in the 31st edition of the “Groovy Shoes” nonleague rivalry game.
NC coach Joseph Kraus lauded the atmosphere but wanted to keep his team focused.
“It was a lot of fun,” Kraus said. “The atmosphere, I mean, Groovy Shoes is one of those things I think all the girls look forward to. But I told the girls coming into tonight, ‘This is definitely an experience, but we have to win out if we’re thinking GSL tournament.’ ”
“It was a lot of fun,” Hayes said. “I’ve been fighting through a little bit of a knee (injury), but it is what it is. I was a little nervous. It’s my first time playing Groovy Shoes. So yeah, I loved it.”
Greta Marko added 10 points for NC – six in the fourth quarter after the lead shrank to single digits.
“We just started to click. It wasn’t just me,” Marko said. “We figured out our offense and we ran it really well.”
Freshman Tameria Thompson led Shadle Park with 16 points. Highlanders leading scorer Kyleigh Archer (12.3 ppg) was held without a basket but went 8 of 8 at the free-throw line.
Both teams struggled mightily out of the gate. The teams combined for two field goals and five free throws and NC (8-10) led 5-4 after one quarter.
It’s a departure from a normal Wednesday night in the league.
“Sometimes with girls basketball, I wish that is wasn’t, but people leave and we don’t draw as big of a crowd,” Kraus said. “So, for the girls to come in and there’s just all this noise – it takes a lot of a lot of mental toughness to push through that adversity.”
“It wasn’t necessarily nerves,” Marko said. “It was just like, you don’t have the background, the solid background that we usually play on. So, it’s just kind of an adjustment.”
Marko and Hayes had buckets early in the second quarter and NC went up 9-6. Hayes had a putback, Hannah Hamilton (nine points) made a pair at the line and Hayes made a steal and fastbreak layup at the horn. An 8-0 run put NC up 21-11 at halftime.
“Lariah is somebody that you know, has had some pretty immense challenges at home, kind of took a year off last year,” Kraus said. “We’ve just been working with her, putting in some time working on post moves, getting her more comfortable and confident and trying to work her into the offense.
Hamilton and Hayes scored on layups on NC’s first two possessions of the third quarter to open up a 27-11 lead.
Shadle Park (7-10) had its best stretch at the start of the fourth quarter. Thompson hit a long 3-pointer, then got loose for a fastbreak layup with 3½ minutes left to get the deficit back to 10.
After a timeout, Marko got aggressive attacking the basket and scored on three layups to open it back up.
“I talked to them and I said, ‘We’re being very tentative and anxious when the trap comes,’ ” Kraus said. “But that’s one of (Marko’s) strengths. She’s good in open space. And they were able to find her and hit her, so it worked out.”
North Central 60, Shadle Park 47: JuJu Ervin scored a season-high 19 points, Eli Williams added 15 and the Wolfpack (6-11) topped the Highlanders (5-12) in the late game.
Enoch Gathecha, Carson Eickstadt and Jordan Dever had nine points each for Shadle Park.
“It feels amazing,” Ervin said. “I’ve been in kind of a slump lately, so it was good to get out here and help the team offensively.”
NC’s defense was key, as it opted for a press on several occasions.
“We’d get these leads, but I’d try to get these guys calmed down and relaxed,” NC coach Andre Ervin said. “We started a press to put some ball pressure on these guys. We saw that their guards were indecisive. We got some turnovers that helped us maintain our leads.”
Williams scored six points in a fast-paced first quarter and NC led 16-15 .
The Wolfpack outscored Shadle 17-5 in the second quarter, scoring the last eight points . Ervin had 10 in the half – eight in the second quarter – and NC opened a 33-20 advantage .
NC went to its press to start the third quarter with Ervin at the top. The move generated turnovers on consecutive possessions with Ervin finishing with two-handed dunks. Ervin had six points in the quarter and NC led 44-30 .
Eickstadt got to the line for Shadle Park, hitting four straight free throws and a bucket to trim the deficit to 10 at the last media timeout.
But the Wolfpack went back to the press and consecutive turnovers made for a couple of easy baskets. NC held on down the stretch.
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