SARANAC LAKE - The North Country Community College women's basketball team came up big from downtown and on defense in a 59-58 victory at home Tuesday over Clinton Community.
The Saints rained down 13 3-pointers, including nine in the second half, and got a huge shot block just before the buzzer from Veronica Uras to win their first NJCAA Region III game of the season and improve to 2-3 overall.
Uras was also one of five NCCC players who found the mark from beyond the three-point arc in a game that was tight from start to finish. Uras knocked down a trio of 3-pointers, all within the last five minutes of the game, which was one less than Saints leader Kelly Kezar, who knocked down four from long range and finished with a team-high 12 points
North Country’s Nicole Keitt, a freshman from Newark, N.J., goes strong to the basket as Alisha Ducatte defends for Clinton during Tuesday’s game in Saranac Lake.
(Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)
On defense, the Saints concentrated on slowing down Emily Decker and Katrina Garrand, who NCCC coach Jerrad Dumont described as the Cougars top scoring threats. A force inside, Decker was one of two players who paced Clinton with a game-high 15 points while Garrand was held to five. Freshman Katelyn Gates also finished with 15 for Clinton, which dropped to 2-2 overall.
"Our defense was centered around those two players, and defensively we played very well as a team," Dumont said. "We were outsized and didn't want to get caught one-on-one down low. We really communicated."
NCCC carried a 26-21 edge into intermission, thanks to a 3-pointer that Stephanie Demarais drained from the baseline just before the buzzer. The Cougars opened the second half with a 6-0 run to take the lead, and NCCC answered with seven straight points to jump back ahead. The Saints held the advantage until the Cougars put together another six-point run that was capped off by a layup by Decker that gave Clinton a 45-42 edge with just over five minutes remaining in the game.
From there, the contest was deadlocked three more times and saw another three lead changes. The Saints went ahead to stay when Uras connected on her team's 13th and final 3-pointer of the game, which came with 1:12 left on the clock and broke a 54-54 tie. Nicole Keitt then sank a pair of foul shots with 40 seconds remaining for a 59-54 NCCC lead.
The Cougars closed the gap with a field goal and two foul shots to cut their deficit to a single point, then got the ball back with five seconds remaining for a chance at a game-winning play. With the ball in her hands, Garrand dribbled up court toward the basket, but was stripped by Uras while trying to get off a potential game-winning shot.
"We don't make things easy on ourselves," Cougars head coach Donna Dixon said. "We didn't play defense, and North Country made some big shots. It's always disappointing to lose, but the good thing is we battled to the end. It's always a battle when our two teams get together."
Alisha Ducatte was the third Clinton player to score in double figures, finishing with 12 points. Demarais and Shelby Gausby both chipped in 10 points for the winners, and teammate Nicole Keitt chipped in nine.
"Being 2-3 is a whole lot better than 1-4," Dumont said. "The girls have been working hard, and if we can continue to do the right things on the court, which we did a times tonight, we are going to win some more games."
The Cougars next play at home Saturday against Cayuga, while the Saints will be on the road for two games this weekend. NCCC will be at Herkimer Saturday and then face Mohawk Valley on Sunday.
North Country 59, Clinton Community 58
Garrand 2-0-5, Paul 1-0-2, Gates 4-5-15, Ducatte 4-2-12, E. Decker 5-5-15, J. Decker 0-0-0, Barber 3-2-8, Spencer 1-0-2. Totals: 20-14-58.
North Country (59)
Uras 3-0-9, Keitt 2-5-9, Kezar 4-0-12, Demarais 4-0-10, Gary 1-0-3, Gausby 3-1-10, Lapage 2-0-6. Totals: 20-6-59.
Halftime score: North Country 26-21.
Three point goals: Clinton (4) Garrand, Gates 2, Ducatte. North Country (13) Uras 3, Kezar 4, Demarais 2, Gary, Gausby 3.