Section 3A South girls basketball: Wabasso edges Southwest
MARSHALL — They’ve had to fight adversity all season long, so Friday evening’s South Section 3A final was just another verse to a recurring song for Southwest Minnesota Christian’s girls basketball team.
Despite a valiant second-half effort, the Eagles, unranked and seeded second in the sub-section tournament, fell short to Class A’s eighth-ranked Wabasso, 56-52, at Southwest Minnesota State University’s R/A Facility in Marshall.
It was the second outing in a row the Eagles had to rally back after they defeated Fulda for the second time this season in the sub-section quarterfinals in a double-overtime nail-biter.
“I’m super proud of the girls. They really gave a valiant effort in the second half,” Southwest Christian head coach Denise Nerem said after the game. “They fought hard. We’ve had a habit of getting ourselves in a hole this season and having to dig out. They just did a great job and I think that shows what this team is made of.”
The Rabbits opened the game having an upper hand on both ends of the floor. Taking away anything easy on the inside, Wabasso’s six-foot senior Chelsey Guetter worked in the paint for a dozen first-half points on the offensive end. Wabasso led by as many as 11 points in the opening half, just before the break.
“Most everybody wants to take Tianna (Top) away, but our plan was that everybody has to score,” Nerem said. “That will alleviate the burden off of Tianna. I thought that was what happened in the second half.”
Down by nine points at halftime, 28-19, Southwest saw Wabasso come out in the second half and build its lead to as many as 16 points. Shots from Guetter, sophomore Morgan Frank and senior Karle Eichten helped in the push as the Rabbits continued to get the ball inside.
Trailing by 14 points with 12:45 showing on the clock, shots by Southwest’s Hope Veldkamp and Mariah Talsma cut the lead to 10 points, at 38-28. The Eagles took another run a few minutes later, slicing into an 11-point lead for Wabasso with consecutive treys sank by junior guard Alexis Knutson and Veldkamp, respectively.
As part of her 13 points for the night, Top — a 6-2 post for the Eagles — made good on one of two foul shots and chased it with a layup on the next possession to trim the game to a 52-50 Wabasso advantage with just 45 seconds remaining.
It was as close as Southwest could get it, but it likely had Wabasso head coach Neil Dolan on heightened alert.
“Top took it to us a little bit in the second half. We maybe should have doubled down on her a little bit in the second half, but we didn’t want to give up a three-pointer either,” Dolan said. “That hurts a little bit worse. You have to give Top a lot of credit for some of those plays she made, and at the free throw line, she’s absolutely money.”
Top and Veldkamp each scored 13 points for Southwest Christian. Sophomore forward Ann Pater tacked on 12 and Knutson eight. Guetter keyed Wabasso with 22 points and Frank added a dozen.
Not only has Southwest Christian faced adversity on the floor, but it has faced it off the floor, Nerem said after the game. Her Eagles have had two players down due to injury, and seeing those players not able to participate in practices and games on a daily basis has taught the team a few hard life-lessons.
“We miss people and have to see them every day and miss them every day. That is draining on a team,” Nerem said. “But our kids didn’t look at what they were missing. Instead they looked for what they could do to help.”
Southwest Christian finishes the season at 20-6 and brings all but one player back for next season.
The winners now of their last five games, the Rabbits will face Minneota Thursday evening for the Section 3A championship and a trip to the state tournament. The Vikings took down Canby in the first game of Friday’s doubleheader, 62-39.
“We feel super blessed for what we’ve received this year. We had a very young team and weren’t certain of how things were going to pan out,” Nerem said. “When I met this team in June and we went to our first tournament, I think we scored 10 points in the first game. It’s exciting to see how far this team has come, and we’re just getting started.”
SWC 19 52
Wabasso 28 56
SOUTHWEST CHRISTIAN (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Veldkamp 1-4-2-13, Top 0-4-5-13, Knutson 1-1-3-8 Tinklenberg 0-1-2-4, Talsma 0-1-0-2. Totals 2-16-14-52.
WABASSO (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Guetter 0-9-4-22, Frank 0-5-2-12, Eichten 0-4-0-8, Rothmeier 0-1-2-4, Franta 0-2-0-4, Rohlik 1-0-0-3, Rohlik 0-1-0-2, Liebl 0-0-1-1. Totals 1-22-9-56.