GIRLS' BASKETBALL: RRC runs past Fulda, 69-54
FULDA -- Red Rock Central's girls' basketball team is hitting its stride at the right time.
Thea Engen scored a game-high 22 points, and Krystle Sell scored 17 -- all in the second half -- Monday night, leading the Falcons to a 69-54 victory in their regular-season finale and extending their season-best winning streak to 10 games entering the Section 3A tournament.
Second-seeded RRC will face either seventh-seeded Southwest Star Concept or 10th-seeded Hills-Beaver Creek at 4:30 p.m. Saturday in Worthington.
"We knew we needed to come in and win this game, and it was a good game to get in before the playoffs because we're going to be playing good teams and it's going to be good competition, so we needed this game and we needed the win for a confidence-booster," Sell said. "We're doing so well -- I just think we're doing great going into the playoffs."
Since a 57-46 loss to Adrian on Jan. 24, the Falcons went on a nine-game winning streak, during which they averaged 10 points per game more and allowed five points per game fewer than they had previously, while defeating opponents by an average of 24.2 points.
"We went into that game and we just played awful," Sell said. "We came out of it and said, 'No more of that.' We were like, 'We want to do good and we need to do good and this is our year and we're going to play like it's our year.'"
Fulda, meanwhile, will enter the postseason under different circumstances.
The Raiders on Monday night were seeking just their second three-game winning streak of a regular season that has been plagued with inconsistency. While the Raiders have had only one losing streak, which lasted just two games, they've registered just three winning streaks.
"The whole year has been tough; it's been a roller coaster of emotion," Fulda coach Gregg Slaathaug said. "We need to play with more intensity, that's all there is to it. I don't know how we've been so good and so bad all at the same time this year. We've been very inconsistent all season, especially in the intensity department."
The Raiders, who received the No. 5 seed in the Section 3A tournament, will face fourth-seeded Murray County Central at 2:30 p.m. Saturday in Worthington.
"We better find some intensity," Slaathaug said. "We think we can play with anybody in the section, but we're going to have to play with the high level of intensity that we have played with in numerous games this year, but there have been numerous games where we've played with no intensity.
"We have to find it, and we have to maintain it."
Neither team lacked much intensity in the first half Monday night.
RRC scored on its first two possessions, and Fulda scored on its first three en route to an early advantage.
The Falcons trailed for the first 14:47 until Engen hit 1 of 2 free throws to even the score at 19-19.
After a Fulda turnover, Engen drilled a deep jumper from the baseline with 4:32 remaining in the half to give RRC its first lead. Jenna Smith and Steph Maras each followed with baskets to give the Falcons a 25-19 lead, but the Raiders scored eight of the final 12 points in the first half and capped a 15-4 run on a 3-pointer by Courtney Hulstein early in the second half to take a 34-29 lead.
Enter Engen and Sell.
The two combined to score 10 points in the ensuing 2:11, sparking a 13-0 run that gave the Falcons a 42-34 lead.
Fulda battled back, pulling to within four points, 44-40, with 12:03 remaining, but Engen responded with a 3-pointer from the left wing on her only attempt from beyond the arc in the game, and Sell followed with a jumper on RRC's next possession.
Later, with Fulda trailing 51-43, Engen and Sell combined to score 11 consecutive points for the Falcons, pushing their lead to 13 points with 5:16 remaining.
Engen fouled out with 3:26 remaining, but Sell went 4-for-4 from the free-throw line in the final two and a half minutes to essentially seal the victory.
Engen, who went 9-for-14 shooting, added 10 rebounds and five assists.
Maras had 10 points, 11 rebounds and two steals, and Cierra Nickel added 10 points and two steals for RRC (21-3, 16-1).
Sell, who went 0-for-3 from the field and 0-for-2 from the free-throw line in the first half, went 6-for-8 shooting in the second half.
"I was so mad after the first half because I played one of the worst halves of my life," said Sell, who added five rebounds and four assists in the game. "And after they called that third foul on me, where I didn't touch the girl, I just got really mad. And when they called the technical (foul) on (RRC coach Jeff) Shaner, I was just really mad, and I wasn't going to have it any more."
Sell and Engen combined to score 32 of RRC's 42 points in the second half.
"Sell and Engen stepped up and made big plays," Slaathaug said. "They have a really good team, and they have two really good players who stepped up tonight and weren't going to lose."
Lane Gehl scored 14 points, Amy Paulzine had 12 points and 10 rebounds, and Hulstein added eight points, eight rebounds and five assists to lead the Raiders (14-11, 10-7), who were outrebounded 37-26.
RRC 27 42 -- 69
Fulda 27 27 -- 54
RRC (3FG-2FG-FT-TP): Nickel 0-3-4-10, K. Sell 1-5-4-17, Maras 0-5-0-10, Smith 0-1-0-2, T. Engen 1-8-3-22, Schroeder 0-1-0-2, Neperman 0-3-0-6. Totals: 2-26-11-69.
FHS (3FG-2FG-FT-TP): C. Hulstein 2-1-0-8, Goedtke 0-0-2-2, B. Hulstein 2-2-0-10, Holinka 0-1-1-3, L. Gehl 0-4-6-14, K. Wilkening 0-1-0-2, Kramer 0-1-1-3, Paulzine 0-3-6-12. Totals: 4-13-16-54.