GIRLS' BASKETBALL: Second-half offensive outburst lifts RRC past SSC
WORTHINGTON -- Keyed by a 9-0 run coming out of the halftime break Saturday afternoon, the second-seeded Red Rock Central Falcons exploded for 49 second-half points to erase a five-point deficit and claim a 68-51 victory over the seventh-seeded Southwest Star Concept Quasars in the quarterfinals of the Section 3A South girls' basketball tournament.
RRC (22-3, 11-game winning streak) advances to Tuesday night's semifinals, as the Falcons will take on third-seeded Southwest Christian in Luverne at 7:30 p.m.
"This was a pretty good game, as SSC played very well in the first half," RRC head coach Jeff Shaner said after the game. "We worked hard defensively, but we were in a little bit of a funk on offense in the first half. We got some things going in the second half, and what worked best for us was running the floor after getting rebounds or forcing turnovers."
SSC, which finishes the season with a 12-14 record, closed the first half on an 8-2 run to take a 24-19 halftime lead. RRC, though, turned things around with its 9-0 surge to start the second half.
Senior Krystle Sell, who scored all 15 of her team-high points after halftime and also had four assists and four steals, nailed a 3-pointer from the left wing at the 16:51 mark to bring RRC within two. Junior Jenna Smith, who scored all 14 of her points in the last 18 minutes and grabbed seven rebounds, hit a runner to tie the score with 16:18 remaining.
Sell then gave RRC a 28-24 lead with back-to-back break-away layups 25 seconds apart -- forcing SSC to call a timeout with 15:07 remaining.
SSC's Erika Post, a junior who netted a game-high 17 points and collected nine rebounds, scored the Quasars' first points of the half with a basket in the lane at the 13:40 mark.
Post scored again 34 seconds later, taking a high-low feed from sophomore Katey Granstra (16 points, 12 rebounds, three assists, three shot blocks) and scoring on the right block to make it 30-28 Falcons.
RRC answered with seven straight points, as junior Stephanie Maras (seven points, seven rebounds, four assists) knocked down a right-wing 3-pointer, Smith finished a sweet fast-break play with a layup following passes from Maras and senior Thea Engen, and Sell popped in an eight-foot floater along the left baseline to give RRC a 37-28 lead with 11:25 to go.
SSC, behind a putback basket by Granstra, a running bank shot in the lane by sophomore Cassie Cselovszki (four points, three assists) and an interior hoop by Post, was within five (39-34) with 10:10 remaining. Falcon junior Nichole Schroeder then scored four straight points (second-chance basket and two free throws) to make it 43-34.
It was a seven-point game (43-36) at the 8:48 mark when Quasar senior Michaela Rasche (five rebounds, two assists) passed to senior Betsy Voehl for a mid-range shot on the right baseline.
However, RRC ripped off 20 of the game's next 27 points to build a 20-point lead (63-43) with 4:03 to play. Smith triggered that burst with back-to-back 3-pointers from the right wing.
The Falcons scored three fast-break hoops in that game-changing stretch, while Engen (13 points, nine rebounds, eight assists, five steals) hit a 12-footer along the right baseline and had a pair of passes to senior Emily Neperman (12 points, five steals) for baskets.
RRC's largest lead was 68-45 following a free throw by sophomore Alyssa Fredrickson at the 1:16 mark. SSC then scored the game's last six points.
Junior Jenny Doherty took a pass from junior Erin Liepold and swished a 15-footer on the right baseline. Liepold then received a pass from senior Paula Gruener and drained a shot from the free-throw line. Gruener then finished the scoring with two free throws with 11.6 seconds remaining.
"RRC is a very good team, and it was certainly a good feeling for us to have a five-point lead on them at halftime," SSC head coach Les Knutson said. "We have been coming on at the end of the season, and the way we played in the first half was an example of what we were capable of doing. But it was difficult to sustain that level of play in the second half against a team as good as RRC."
Engen sparked RRC to an early 7-2 lead 2:30 into the first half with two free throws, a 3-pointer in the left corner and a post-to-post assist to Neperman for a hoop.
SSC responded with a 6-0 run, starting when Voehl drove-and-dished to Rasche for a bucket in the lane. Granstra, who later passed to senior Jenna Leopold (three rebounds, three steals, two assists) for a fast-break hoop in the second half, added a putback basket, and Post scored on a quick drive to give the Quasars an 8-7 lead with 13:22 left.
RRC later had an 11-10 lead following a driving hoop by sophomore Cierra Nickel, but Post meshed a turnaround shot on the right block and then scored on a quick one-dribble move in the lane to put SSC ahead 14-11 at the 8:50 mark.
Junior Luanna Henkels (three assists) passed to Cselovszki for a 17-footer from the left wing to give SSC a 16-13 lead a minute later, but Engen provided a basket along the right baseline and a bounce-pass assist to Neperman for a hoop and a 17-16 RRC lead at the 3:56 mark.
A post-to-post basket (Granstra to Post) gave SSC an 18-17 lead before Voehl cleared her self for a 15-foot jumper on the right wing. Two offensive-rebound baskets -- one by Granstra at the 1:05 mark, and one by Post with three seconds left -- lifted the Quasars to a 24-19 halftime lead.
RRC, which forced 25 turnovers (17 Falcons' steals) and lost possession of the ball just 11 times, then started to take control with its 9-0 burst to open the second half.
SSC 24 27 -- 51
RRC 19 49 -- 68
SSC (3PT-2PT-FT-TP): Voehl 0-2-0-4, Cselovszki 0-2-0-4, Rasche 0-1-0-2, Leopold 0-1-0-2, Liepold 0-1-0-2, Doherty 0-1-0-2, Post 0-8-1-17, Gruener 0-0-2-2, Granstra 0-7-2-16. Totals: 0-23-5-51.
RRC (3PT-2PT-FT-TP): Nickel 0-1-0-2, Sell 1-6-0-15, Maras 1-1-2-7, Smith 2-4-0-14, Engen 1-3-3-12, Schroeder 0-1-3-5, Neperman 0-6-0-12, Fredrickson 0-0-1-1. Totals: 5-22-9-68.