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Brian Korthals/Daily Globe Pipestone Area's Breanna Houselog (42) takes an inside shot between Jackson County Central defenders Kaylee Benson (3) and Brooke Burmeister during Friday night's Section 3AA playoff game in Windom.

Pipestone Area advances with 60-50 victory against Huskies

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WINDOM -- Stepping up its defensive intensity and scoring several baskets after leaping for offensive rebounds, the Pipestone Area Arrows doubled up the scoring on Jackson County Central in the second half Friday evening and claimed the Section 3AA South girls' basketball championship with a 60-50 victory over the hard-working Huskies.

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The victory improves the Arrows to 19-6 and advances them to the Section 3AA title game when they will face Southwest Conference rival Redwood Valley for the right to play in the state basketball tournament.

Redwood Valley defeated top-seeded Minnesota Valley Lutheran (72-49) to win the Section 3AA North championship.

The Arrows and the Cardinals split during the regular season. Due to a possible gym conflict at Southwest Minnesota State University, Friday's championship game's time and site are yet to be determined.

For JCC, which dominated most of the first half, the season ends with a stellar overall record of 20-8, including a pair of victories over Fairmont (22-2) -- the state's sixth-ranked Class AA team in the latest Minnesota Basketball News poll.

"We came out and played the way we expected to," said JCC head coach Stephanie Bot, referring to her team's fabulous start. "But in the second half, Pipestone stepped up its defense and they beat us on the boards."

Riding the momentum of its thrilling double overtime victory (88-81) in the semifinals at Windom Tuesday night, JCC came out of the gates with an awesome all-around display of basketball, building leads of 11-0, 13-2, 15-4 and 17-6 -- before the turnover-plagued Arrows could get untracked.

"We had some early jitters," PA head coach Jay Johnson said. "But you have to give all kinds of credit to JCC. That team has lots of weapons and we knew that it was going to be a physical battle to the finish."

Two of those "weapons" that Johnson referred to were JCC seniors Ashley Kruse and Brooke Burmeister who combined for 25 first-half points, helping the Huskies earn a 33-26 lead by intermission.

But as the second half unfolded, it became apparent that the athletic and aggressive Arrows were capable of coming back.

"We weathered the storm in the first half," explained Johnson. "Then we handled the ball better in the second half -- and, as usual, our defense and our rebounding ended up winning the game for us."

Momentum swings midway through second half

The second half started with each team turning the ball over on its first possession, and then with 50 seconds gone -- Kruse, who had scored 11 points in the first half, was whistled for her third foul.

The Huskies, however, maintained a lead for nearly 10 minutes -- but the Arrows were creeping closer and closer.

Eight seconds after Kruse picked up her fourth foul and went to the bench, PA sophomore Bree Woelber -- the 2008 state champion in the 300 meter low hurdles -- showed her athleticism by penetrating a gap in the JCC zone defense and hitting a jump shot.

To make matters worse for the Huskies, Woelber was fouled on the shot and sank the free throw, converting the 3-point play and bringing the Arrows to within two points, 35-33, with 13:55 to play.

That was the first time that PA had been that close since the score was 2-0 after Kruse had netted the game's first basket, on a baseline jumper, 56 seconds in.

But the Huskies stayed in control, getting a key basket on a patient and well-executed offensive possession.

Sophomore forward Courtney Kruse, who had scored two timely baskets in the first half, rifled a sharp pass to a backdoor-cutting Leslie Handzus, and the sophomore point guard converted, increasing JCC's lead back to four, 37-33, with 13:22 left.

Arrow junior Bailey Bouman (17 points, four steals) scored on one of her five offensive rebounds, drawing PA back to within two, 37-35, at the 12:51 mark.

After a free throw by JCC freshman Whitney Burmeister made the score 38-35, Bouman rebounded her own missed rebound shot and the Arrows were down by just a point, 38-37, with 11:03 left.

Thirty seconds later, PA missed an opportunity to take the lead, failing to score on a nice-looking give-and-go play.

Whitney Burmeister was fouled after rebounding the missed shot and sank a pair of free throws, giving the Huskies a 40-37 advantage with 10:29 on the clock.

But again, an offensive rebound basket -- this time by senior forward Megan Vanderpoel -- brought the Arrows back to within one.

Handzus (eight assists, eight second-half points, 6-of-8 at the line) sank a pair of free throws and JCC was leading 42-39 with 10:05 on the clock.

Following turnovers by each team, the Arrows suddenly struck with a quick 6-0 run that changed the game's outcome.

Bouman started the spurt by netting a well-contested driving shot on the right wing.

Then after a JCC turnover, the Arrows looked to work the right side of their offense again. But this time, they isolated Bree Woelber (10 points, four assists, four steals) on the left side and the speedster scored on her second impressive drive of the game, giving the Arrows their first lead of the night, 43-42 with 8:07 to play.

Vanderpoel (10 points, nine rebounds, four assists) then made an even bigger play as she intercepted a JCC pass and drove down the court, hitting a 12-foot pull-up jumper which upped PA's lead to 45-42 at the 7:50 mark.

"That was quite a play," remarked Johnson. "The girls came up big when they needed to."

Handzus, however, sank two more free throws, bringing the Huskies back to within one, but the Arrows answered with an easy basket by junior center Breanna Houselog (seven points, six rebounds) off a penetrating assist from Brooke Woelber (10 points, four steals) and with 7:07 on the clock, PA again had a three-point edge, 47-44.

Ashley Kruse then scored her only basket of the second half, cutting the margin to one, but the Huskies were unable to score following an Arrow turnover, and had another chance after Whitney Burmeister drew a charge.

JCC did take the lead back at the 3:32 mark as the Burmeister sisters teamed up for a score with Brooke getting the assist and Whitney scoring the basket.

The Arrows answered when Vanderpoel converted off an inbounds pass from Houselog, giving PA a 49-48 lead with 3:16 to play.

Vanderpoel made it a three-point cushion by scoring on another putback 11 seconds later.

Ashley Kruse fouled out with 2:51 to play and Houselog made one free throw, increasing the lead to four, 52-48.

The Arrows then went into their delay game and Brooke Woelber sank four straight free throws, building the lead to 56-48 with 57 seconds left.

Jeena Lentz made a sweet pass to Vanderpoel for a basket and a 10-point lead with 33 seconds on the clock, before Handzus netted two more free throws, closing the gap to 58-50.

Brooke Woelber finished out the game by scoring with 11 seconds left on PA's 20th offensive rebound of the game.

Huskies hold 23-11 lead late in first half

Executing effectively on offense and forcing seven Arrow turnovers with its defensive pressure, JCC jumped out an 11-0 lead in the game's first 4:29.

Four players scored for the Huskies in that opening burst, and later a quick catch-and-shoot by Ashley Kruse gave JCC an impressive 17-6 lead with 10:55 left in the half.

Brooke Burmeister (14 points, 10 rebounds) thrilled the JCC crowd at the 6:46 mark by sinking a 3-pointer which gave the Huskies the biggest lead of the game, 23-11.

Burmeister, who is JCC's strongest inside threat, showed her versatility by connecting on another 3-pointer with 1:44 on the clock, which pushed the advantage to 33-24.

But after halftime, the Arrows put the clamps on Ashley Kruse and Brooke Burmeister with their increased defensive pressure.

"That was a major point of our halftime discussion," said PA assistant coach Lowell Lorenzen. "We really stressed working harder to stop those two from scoring."

For most of the second half, Brooke Woelber was assigned to Kruse and Houselog drew the task of guarding Burmeister.

Seven players scored for each team, as both the Arrows and the Huskies showed good bench strength.

JCC 33 17 -- 50

PA 26 34 -- 60

JCC (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Benson 0-0-1-1, Handzuz 0-1-6-8, B.Kruse 0-0-1-1, A.Kruse 0-5-3-13, C.Kruse 0-2-0-4, W.Burmeister 0-3-3-9, B.Burmeister 2-3-2-14. Totals 2-14-16-50

PA (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Swenson 0-2-0-4, Bree Woelber 0-4-2-10, Bouman 0-7-3-17, Brooke Woelber 0-3-4-10, Lentz 0-1-0-2, Houselog 0-3-1-7, Vanderpoel 0-5-0-10. Total 0-5-0-60.

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