WHS GIRLS' BASKETBALL: Andersen scores with 2 seconds left to give WHS 55-53 win and sub-section championshipJACKSON — Fairmont had the ball out of bounds in front of Worthington’s bench with a one-point lead and 11 seconds remaining in what had been a highly-competitive and evenly-played Section 3AA South Sub-Section championship game Monday night.
By: Les Knutson, Worthington Daily Globe
JACKSON — Fairmont had the ball out of bounds in front of Worthington’s bench with a one-point lead and 11 seconds remaining in what had been a highly-competitive and evenly-played Section 3AA South Sub-Section championship game Monday night.
Neither team was yet in a bonus situation, so the Trojans needed to foul to stop the clock and get the Cardinals to the free throw line.
Worthington quickly did that twice and with nine seconds left, Fairmont tried a third time, trying a different pass angle.
The ball deflected off a Cardinal receiver and was scooped up with seven seconds left by Worthington sophomore guard Abbie Landgaard on Fairmont’s side of midcourt.
Landgaard dribble twice and fired a pass to Trojan senior Mackenzie Gerber.
Gerber drove hard for the hoop and was cut off by a pair of Fairmont defenders.
So, she slipped a pass over the top to a wide open Kristen Andersen underneath.
Andersen caught the pass and shot the ball upward against the backboard and through the hoop — being fouled on the play — as the clock stopped with two seconds showing.
The remarkable sequence — Landgaard to Gerber to Andersen — changed a 53-52 deficit into a 54-53 lead for the Trojans.
After a Fairmont timeout, Andersen completed the three-point play by sinking the free throw and — after a missed 60-foot shot by the Cardinals — WHS jubilantly celebrated its well-earned sub-section championship with a 55-53 victory.
“Mackenzie gave me a good pass and I just put it up,” explained Andersen about her game-winning shot. “When it went in, it was the best feeling ever.”
“I knew I had to take it to the basket and score or get fouled,” said Gerber about the play. “When two girls stopped me, I knew that Kristen was open and she finished the job. What a finish to a great game.”
“I was just able to come up with the ball and I knew I had to find an open player to pass it to,” described Landgaard about her third steal of the game, which set up the dramatic heroics of Gerber and Andersen. “I was hoping to get another chance after losing the ball in the corner a couple of possessions earlier.”
The Trojans, who received solid contributions from 10 players, are now one game away from earning a state tournament berth.
That honor will be decided Friday at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall when Worthington (19-7) will tangle with Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial (25-3) at 5 p.m.
The Knights — who defeated the Trojans, 66-54, at Lake Crystal Jan. 28 — won the North Sub-Section title Monday with a 54-50 victory over Yellow Medicine East at Redwood Falls.
For Fairmont, which rallied from an early 12-point deficit and then led much of the second half, the loss was disappointing.
Cardinals’ head coach Don Waletich, however was upbeat about the quality of the game and about how the Cardinals played.
“This was the way a championship game should be,” he declared. “Both teams played hard and had chances to win.
“One play here or there ended up being the difference. Both teams deserved to win this one.
“But give them (the Trojans) credit as they weathered some foul trouble in the first half with good play off their bench and came up with some big shots late in the game after we had the lead a few times.”
Gerber, Andersen combine for 21 of Trojans’ 26 second-half points
Prior to the dramatics of the game’s final nine seconds, the lead had exchanged hands numerous times in an action-packed second half.
Worthington, which held a 20-8 lead with 8:37 to play in the first half, had a slim 29-27 edge at intermission.
The Trojans, however, went more than four minutes of the second half without a field goal.
A free throw by senior forward Bernadette Boever — who had sank a pair of 3-pointers in the game’s first three minutes and 14 seconds — was Worthington’s only point in the first 4:06 after intermission.
That scoring lull allowed the Cardinals to work to a 33-30 lead.
But, Andersen scored on a backdoor cut (assist Gerber) at the 13:54 mark and 27 seconds later — following a steal and long pass by Gerber — senior guard Megan Juber netted a baseline jumper and the Trojans were leading again, 34-33.
Juber’s defensive pressure caused a Cardinal turnover and Gerber quickly converted a putback — a second-chance effort off her own miss — and the lead was three, 36-33.
Landgaard (five rebounds, two assists) hit a nifty 14-footer from the left side (assist Gerber), capping an 8-0 run and putting WHS in command, 38-33, with 12:18 to play.
But the Cardinals countered with a pair of buckets inside to trim the lead to one.
Andersen (11 points, five steals, four rebounds, three blocks) buried a long 3-pointer from the left wing and with 10:15 to play, the Trojans had a four-point lead, 41-37.
A press-breaking layup by Fairmont freshman Sierra Schultz trimmed the gap to two, but a putback by Gerber (21 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists, five steals, three blocks) gave WHS another four-point edge, 43-39.
A sweet drive by Fairmont’s Kamara Cone sliced the lead to two and 20 seconds later sophomore Kristen Campe swished a right wing 3-pointer and with 6:57 to play, the Cardinals had recaptured the lead, 44-43.
Gerber sank two free throws, putting the Trojans back on top, but Justine Gerdts did the same for the Cardinals and with 5:40 left, it was FHS leading by one, 46-45.
Nineteen seconds later, the right-handed Gerber converted on a dandy left-handed sweep shot and the Trojans took a one-point edge.
Neither team scored for more than a minute. Then a dandy pass from Cone to Kayla Lardy gave the lead back to Fairmont, 48-47, with 4:18 on the clock.
Nineteen seconds later, Campe (seven points) left the game with a head injury and did not return.
The Cardinals worked 63 seconds off the clock before Megan Roloff scored her first basket of the game — completing a dandy jump stop in the lane.
Holding a three-point lead, 50-47, Fairmont looked to be in control after getting the ball back.
But the Cardinals missed a shot and Andersen bounced in a 3-pointer from the left wing, knotting the score at 50-50 with 1:52 left.
“I have confidence in my long shots,” declared Andersen, who scored all of her points in the second half, after sitting much of the first in foul trouble.
Five seconds, later Gerber (10 second-half points) converted a steal into a layup and the Trojans were again leading, 52-50.
Twenty-five seconds later, Gerdts sank a 3-pointer for the Cardinals and FHS had a 53-52 edge with 1:22 left.
Each team had the ball several times in the next minute and 15 seconds — as the wild and exciting action continued to the wire.
Landgaard’s steal ended up being the play which sealed the deal for the Trojans, earning them a trip to Marshall.
“What a game, what a finish,” summed up WHS head coach Eric Lindner. “We had kids step up and make plays all night long, including five girls off the bench who really helped in the first half.”
Kemper, Linder, Riley provide eight timely first-half WHS points
While Boever’s two 3-pointers — the first from the right wing and the second from the left corner — sparked the Trojans to an 8-2 lead, it was a bucket by Rebecca Linder (assist Paige Gravenhof), a pair of buckets by Lydia Kemper and two free throws by K.C. Riley — after a steal — which helped Worthington overcome a strong Fairmont surge in the first half.
After working to leads of 13-6 and 16-8, WHS went up 20-8 after a brilliant play from Kemper to Gravenhof to Linder for a bucket and a layup by Kemper.
Fairmont, led by the offensive rebounding prowess of Lardy (13 points) and Shannon Christianson (10 points) rallied back to within four, 22-18.
But the Trojans responded with Kemper scoring — off a beautiful assist from Landgaard — to push the lead back to six.
A dandy drive by Campe and a bucket by Lardy (assist Cone) gave Fairmont its first lead, 26-25, with 2:39 to play in the first half.
Riley’s two free throws tied the game at 27-27 at the 1:13 mark and with seven seconds left, the Trojans took a two-point edge after Gerber swished a pair of free throws.
Fairmont, which defeated WHS (81-72) at Worthington Dec. 6, finishes its season with a 14-10 record.
Fairmont 27 26 — 53
Worthington 29 26 —55
Fairmont (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Schultz 0-1-0-2, Cone 0-2-4-8, Roloff 0-1-0-2, Campe 1-1-2-7, Gerdts 1-1-4-9, Kloeckner 0-1-0-2, Christianson 0-4-2-10, Lardy 0-5-3-13. Totals 2-16-15-53.
WHS (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Juber 0-2-2-6, Landgaard 0-1-0-2, Kemper 0-2-0-4, Gerber 0-7-7-21, Linder 0-1-0-2, Riley 0-0-2-2, Andersen 2-2-1-11, B. Boever 2-0-1-7. Totals 4-15-13-55.