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Raiders build large lead, hold on 56-50

FULDA -- For Fulda's Brooke Kuehne and Sam Raddle, Tuesday's senior night was only fitting.

"It's really sad for Brooke and I," Raddle said. "We've played here for so many years and now it's our last game. We wanted to beat them pretty bad, but it was still pretty emotional I guess."

As the only two seniors on Fulda's team, Kuehne and Raddle added another chapter to their illustrious careers by leading the Raiders (11-2, 13-7) to their 11th consecutive conference victory with a 56-50 win over Murray Country Central in a Red Rock Conference girls' basketball game.

"We don't want to lose on senior night, that's for sure," Fulda head coach Gregg Slaathaug said. "They've been here through the two state championships and through the triple overtime loss in the section finals when they were freshman. They've been here for a lot and they've both done an outstanding job this year."

However, the victory wasn't an easy one over MCC (8-5, 11-9). The Raiders built as much as a 15 point lead late in the game, but saw it shrink to four in the final seconds.

"I think our first half was really slow and we dug ourselves a hole and we just couldn't get back out of it," Emily Bose said. "Our second half was good, we hustled 10 times more and we just did a lot better. It was our first half that really hurt us."

Fulda had to overcome a late rally from the Rebels, and a triple-double from Bose. The sophomore finished with 17 points, 12 rebounds and 11 blocks.

"I was (in a zone) in the beginning of the first half and the end of the second half," Bose said. "But there was just this time in the middle that our team was just out of it."

Behind six points from Bose, MCC opened up a 10-2 lead in the first three minutes.

However, with a basket and a pair of free throws from Lane Gehl (12 points), Fulda was able take a 14-12 lead.

A basket from Bose later in the half cut Fulda's lead to 20-18, but MCC would only score two more points in the half.

After the early deficit, Fulda finished the first half on a 29-10 run, and with a basket from Raddle (nine points, seven rebounds, four assists, three steals) the Raiders had a 31-20 lead at the break.

"They (MCC) came out and really executed well, and we weren't moving crisply," Slaathaug said. "But after that, we weathered that little storm and we took care of business. Basketball is sometimes a game of runs, and it just happened that their run was for three minutes, but ours was for 15 minutes in the first half. I'll take the 15 minutes."

Both teams traded points in the second half, but with a trey from Courtney Hulstein, Fulda had a 51-35 lead with five minutes remaining.

"We just have to shoot better," MCC head coach Tom Pryor said. "We didn't shoot very well. We started to open it up in the second half and we shot a little better. We got the ball in the post where we needed to get it, and did some things better."

However, from that point on, the Rebels made their comeback.

Alyssa Schmidt (17 points) made a pair of free throws to spark an 11-0 run, cutting the lead to 51-46.

"We played much better the second half," Pryor said. "In the first half, we gave them way too many layups in the full court press. We didn't give them too many layups to speak of in the second half."

A 3-point play from Gehl gave the Raiders a 54-46 lead and some breathing room.

"I think we knew we had it," Raddle said. "But just playing strong the whole game made it easier toward the end for us."

Schmidt and Abby Van Meveren each made a basket in the final 90 seconds, but MCC couldn't get a key basket down the stretch as Fulda's Amy Paulzine (13 points, eight rebounds) hit a pair of free throws to seal a 56-50 victory for Fulda.

"You can't win games when you sleepwalk, but we were able to do it," Slaathaug said. "We learned the lesson tonight that you have to finish. I'm very happy with our win because we were comfortably ahead at 15 points, but you have to finish games."

With a postponement earlier in the season, the two teams will face each other again this season.

"It's probably our most disappointing loss this year because it's Fulda and because it was so close," Bose said. "It's going to be big next time we play them at home."

The victory keeps the Raiders in second place in the conference, a half-game behind Adrian -- making the victory even more important.

"It was pretty important to us, but we stuck in there and pulled it out and came together with a victory," Kuehne said. "(Senior night) is hard because next year we're leaving the girls, but we're going to keep the season going and play as hard as we can with the girls that we have."

If Fulda is to continue with its winning ways, it will have to do it with its last five games on the road.

"Did you hear about the Giants starting 0-2 and then becoming road warriors?" Slaathaug said. "The storyline is going to be very similar, and the ending is going to be about the same."

Fulda will travel to Hills-Beaver Creek Friday, while MCC hosts Round Lake-Brewster the same evening.

"I think we'll still have our victories on the road, and hopefully make it to state this year," Kuehne said.

MCC 20 30 -- 50

Fulda 31 25 -- 56

MCC (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Bose 0-8-1-17, Schreiber 0-1-0-2, Schmidt 2-4-3-17, Van Meveren 0-4-0-8, Everson 0-1-0-2, Robinson 0-1-2-4. Totals 2-19-6-50.

Fulda (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Paulzine 0-5-3-13, Gehl 0-4-4-12, Raddle 1-2-2-9, Kuehne 0-1-0-2, Holinka 0-5-0-10, C. Hulstein 2-0-0-6, Goedtke 0-0-1-1, B. Hulstein 1-0-0-3. Totals 4-17-10-56.