The game might have had a bit of nail-biting anxiety in the late-going, but there was more than enough Micah Stevens in the early-going to make sure the Thayer Lady Bobcat faithful left Mansfield High School happy Feb. 23.
Stevens exploded for 20 points in the first half and Thayer (23-3) fought off a late charge by Norwood to advance out of the first round of the Class 2 District 9 Tournament with a 63-51 victory over the Lady Pirates (20-6).
The fifth-seeded Lady Bobcats were all over fourth-seeded Norwood early, using their aggressive, full-court scrambling attack to push the Lady Pirates out of their comfort zone.
Beating Norwood down the floor on just about every possession, Thayer had its way with a barrage of layups and pull-up jumpers in the first period.
All of them from Stevens and Kaley Hebert.
Stevens racked up 10 points in the first eight minutes of play, while Hebert posted eight, with the duo combining for all 18 of the Lady Cats' first-period output.
Stevens finished the afternoon with a game-high 28 points, followed close by Hebert's 24 points.
Norwood, on the other hand, just couldn't buy a hoop, largely thanks to Thayer's defense. The Lady Pirates found just two field goals and one free throw in the first period.
Hebert swiped the ball a couple of times late in the first, leading to a pair of layups, while Stevens did the same thing, giving Thayer an 18-5 lead after the first period.
Stevens kept her motor running in the second period by logging three straight field goals to extend Thayer's advantage to 24-5.
Norwood had more success at scoring the ball in the second, but there was just too much Thayer defense for the Lady Pirates to make much of a push.
Kristen Earls (four points) hit a bucket late and Krysta Adams added a triple to push the Lady Cats in front 35-13 with 1:20 left before intermission.
Norwood did score the last four points of the first half, but the Lady Pirates were still in a 35-17 hole at the break, with Stevens' 20-point effort in the first half topping the entire cats of Lady Pirates' output in the first two periods.
Then late in the third, the game's momentum began to shift a bit, thanks to Norwood's full-court press.
After an 8-0 run by the Lady Cats saw Thayer leading 49-26, Norwood responded by closing the third with seven straight points, the last three via a trey from Marci Ramilo.
Down 49-33 after three, the Lady Pirates did not throw in the towel.
Norwood used a 13-2 push to edge within seven, 53-46, with 3:46 left in the game.
Chelsey Cabrales (four points) stopped this Lady Pirate run with a layup and then Hebert and Stevens broke the press for buckets to stem the Norwood tide.
Hebert hit a pair of free throws at the one-minute mark to round out Thayer's 63-51 victory over Norwood.