PREP GIRLS BASKETBALL: Eagles knock off DragonsWORTHINGTON — Using multiple defensive sets and capitalizing on its height advantage, the Southwest Christian girls’ basketball team advanced to the Section 3A South championship game with a 65-59 victory over the Adrian Dragons Tuesday night at Worthington High School.
By: Lance Knutson, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — Using multiple defensive sets and capitalizing on its height advantage, the Southwest Christian girls’ basketball team advanced to the Section 3A South championship game with a 65-59 victory over the Adrian Dragons Tuesday night at Worthington High School.
“The girls did a great job,” SWC head coach Denise Nerem said following the game. “What a grind! It was a battle the whole time and we expected that.
“We threw a lot of different defenses at (Adrian) and, sometimes, it’s tough for teams to adjust to all those different looks.”
The Eagles, who improved to 22-4 following an undefeated Red Rock Conference campaign, never trailed in the game. However, the Dragons closed the gap each time Southwest Christian opened up a sizable lead. The Eagles’ largest advantage was 11 points, which came on two occasions (34-23 with 1 minute, 28 seconds left in the first half and 40-29 with 15:11 remaining).
“Adrian is a good ball team,” Nerem added. “They penetrated hard to the hoop and got us into some foul trouble. Hats off (to Adrian). They did a great job, but I’m proud of my girls for persevering.”
Following a Morgan Van Hulzen bucket from the left block with 5:22 left that gave SWC a 56-47 lead, Jordin Kopplow sank a pair of free throws for Adrian with 5:02 showing and then she assisted Elizabeth Thier for a left-wing 3 with 2:46 left following an offensive rebound to make it 56-52.
SWC’s Kara Homandberg answered with a layup off a long inbound pass seven seconds later before Adrian’s Rachel Kontz responded with basket to again cut the margin to four (58-54 at 2:17). The Dragons recorded a pair of steals over the next 20 seconds but couldn’t convert them into points.
“We had to it to four (points) and we had the possession one or two times and we weren’t able to convert or we’d turned it over,” Adrian head coach Randy Strand said. “Then (Southwest Christian) was able to separate with some free throws. We just couldn’t get it back.”
A trio of Jennifer Schmidt steals in the final two minutes, along with four free throws from Hannah Van Dyke and two from Savannah Tinklenberg helped the Eagles seal the win.
Southwest Christian opened the game with a 10-2 run in the first 3:14, sparked by four points each by Schmidt and 6-foot-1 Kelly Tinklenberg (10 points, six rebounds) and capped by a 14-foot baseline jumper by Homandberg, who is a 6-foot post.
Adrian tied the game at 12 over the next three minutes. Courtney Vaske (Adrian’s tallest player at 5-9) scored six of the Dragons’ first 12 points, while Kopplow and Thier each added a field goal and Wenzel made two foul shots.
However, SWC used its advantage inside to push its lead to 36-26 at halftime.
Five-foot-11 Amber Pater (six rebounds, two steals) scored 11 of her game-high 17 points in the first half for the Eagles.
After falling behind by 11 early in the second half, two free throws from Thier started a 9-0 run to bring Adrian within two at 40-38 with 10:38 left. Wenzel buried a 3 off a Kontz assist in the run and added a make from the right block to cap the surge, while Thier added a steal and layup in the middle of the run.
The Eagles pushed the margin back to eight 90 seconds later at 48-40 when Van Dyke buried SWC’s only 3 of the game. Van Dyke finished with 14 points, six assists and two steals.
Meanwhile, Adrian’s 3-point attempts weren’t falling in its comeback bid. The Dragons finished 6-for-33 from beyond the perimeter.
“We are pretty short to go inside against a pretty tall team like (Southwest Christian),” Strand said. “(Three-point shooting’s) been part of our offense all year, so it is what it is.”
Wenzel made four 3’s in the game and finished with a team-high 15 points. Thier added 13 points and four steals for the Dragons, while Kontz had 11 points to go with four assists and five steals. Vaske finished with a double-double of 10 points and a game-high 12 rebounds, as well as blocking two shots.
“(Adrian’s) a good 3-point shooting team, normally,” said Schmidt, who totaled nine points, six rebounds and six assists to go along with her three end-game steals for the Eagles. “Our key was to close down on them fast. That was our game plan. We did a better job of that, but luckily, (the 3’s) didn’t fall for (Adrian).”
Kopplow totaled a triple-double for Adrian with 10 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists, as well as four steals.
“(Kopplow) is the quickest athlete I have ever had on the floor,” Strand said. “She makes a lot of things happen and she makes a lot of ballplayers play a little bit better because she’s around them.”
Kopplow, along with fellow seniors Elissa Thier, Kontz, Carly Wolf, Wenzel and Vaske, all played in their final game for the Dragons. Adrian ended its season with a 19-7 record and a second-place finish behind the Eagles in the conference at 14-2 in the league.
“We battled hard and we are proud of what the girls did,” Strand added. “I’ll go to battle with them anytime.”
Southwest Christian plays in the Section 3A South championship at 6 p.m. Friday in Marshall at Southwest Minnesota State University’s R/A Facility. The second-seeded Eagles tangle with the top-seeded Wabasso Rabbits (25-2), who advanced to the final with a 67-47 win over No. 4 Fulda earlier Tuesday night.
“We expect another battle,” Nerem said. “We think it’s going to be a real grind and another tight game. We are excited to be able to advance and play (Wabasso) Friday.”
SOUTHWEST CHRISTIAN 65,
ADRIAN (19-7): Elis. Thier 0 0-0 0, Eliz. Thier 5 2-4 13, Kopplow 3 3-5 10, Kontz 5 0-2 11, Wolf 0 0-0 0, Wenzel 4 4-4 15, Vaske 5 0-0 10. Totals: 22 9-15 59.
SOUTHWEST CHRISTIAN (22-4): Homandberg 1 0-0 2, Van Dyke 3 7-8 14, Top 2 0-0 4, S. Tinklenberg 1 2-2 4, Pater 6 5-5 17, Van Hulzen 2 1-2 5, Schmidt 4 1-5 9, K. Tinklenberg 4 2-2 10. Totals: 23 18-24 65.
Adrian 26 33 — 59
Southwest Christian 36 29 — 65
3-Point Goals: Adrian 6 (Wenzel 3, Eliz. Thier, Kopplow, Kontz); Southwest Christian 1 (Van Dyke). Rebounds: Adrian 36 (Vaske 12, Kopplow 11); Southwest Christian 32 (Pater 6, Schmidt 6, K. Tinklenberg 6). Total Fouls (Fouled Out): Adrian 20 (Vaske); Southwest Christian 18 (None). Technical Fouls: None. Assists: Adrian 21 (Kopplow 10, Kontz 4); Southwest Christian 18 (Van Dyke 6, Schmidt 6). Steals: Adrian 15 (Kontz 5, Eliz. Thier 4, Kopplow 4, Wenzel 4); Southwest Christian 13 (Schmidt 3, Homandberg 2, Van Dyke 2, Pater 2, Van Hulzen 2). Blocked Shots: Adrian 2 (Vaske 2); Southwest Christian 3 (Pater, Van Hulzen, K. Tinklenberg). Turnovers: Adrian 26; Southwest Christian 23.