VIVIAN — At halftime of Thursday night’s girls Class 2A second-round playoff basketball game against Riverside Academy, North Caddo coach Angela Channell told her players to be more aggressive on defense and finish their fast-break chances.
The Lady Rebels listened.
North Caddo (30-3) quickly turned a five-point halftime lead into a double-digit advantage and held on for a 55-44 win to move past Riverside (22-10) and into the quarterfinals.
“It was about intensity,” Channell said. “At halftime, we emphasized that we needed to go out and close the game. We had to put the pressure on them. Ultimately, if we played good defense and kept that pressure on the ball, the game was going to be ours.”
After North Caddo led 15-10 at the end of the first quarter, Riverside was able to control the pace down and take the lead at 18-17.
“We slowed down,” said Channell, whose team trailed by a point three different times in the second quarter. “They started face guarding us and putting a little more pressure on our key players, and our others weren’t able to make the adjustments. We tried to correct that at the half.”
Sumer Williams hit a long jumper to start the third quarter strong for North Caddo, and Ledetriha Sheppard followed that with two straight fast-break baskets off steals — the first on an assist from Jasmine Thomas and the second from Jessica Cox.
“We could feel that they were getting frustrated,” Sheppard said. “We took it away from them. I get excited when I see that. We were on a roll, and I saw them frustrated. When I saw that, I thought they were already beaten. It’s amazing when we are playing all out. I can’t even stress how fun it is. It’s exciting.”
North Caddo stepped up its full-court trapping defense, forced multiple second-half turnovers from Riverside and finished with 17 steals.
“The group of girls we have this year has really allowed us to play a more intenst game, applying more pressure through the different schemes that we have,” Channell said. “It’s really opened it up for us. We are able to force a faster tempo. We practice, and we emphasized it tonight, that if you get that steal, take the fast break.”
Riverside, which trailed by as many as 13 points, was able to cut North Caddo’s lead back to seven going to the fourth, but North Caddo pulled away again.
“It was very exciting to win at home tonight,” Sheppard said. “We want to make our fans proud. There is a lot of joy with us right now. But we have to keep working hard. That’s how we can keep winning.”
Sheppard led all scorers with 22 points.
“She’s great all the time, but her leadership tonight was key,” Channell said.
Thomas finished with 17. Williams was also in double-digits for North Caddo with 10 points. Kendra Turner led Riverside with 21 points, and Toni Hebert added 10.
North Caddo will now play at No. 2 seed St. Thomas Aquinas in the 2A quarterfinals.