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Raiders claim share of title

ADRIAN -- With the girls' Red Rock Conference title on the line, the Fulda Raiders went into Adrian and defeated the conference-leading Dragons, 65-58, in a close basketball game Monday night.

"I feel very fortunate to be able to coach these girls," Fulda head coach Gregg Slaathaug said. "They did a great job all year. They started 0-2 in the conference, and didn't have a very good showing Saturday night, but really played outstanding all year, and I'm very happy for them."

Fulda (14-3, 16-9) suffered a setback Saturday, when the Raiders lost at Murray County Central, and ended their hopes of an outright conference title.

"We really laid an egg on Saturday, but the girls showed a lot of heart," Slaathaug said. "They weren't happy with themselves on Saturday and they really wanted to rebound tonight."

By handing the Dragons (14-3, 20-6) their third conference loss, Adrian, Fulda and Southwest Star Concept end in a three- way tie for the conference championship.

"Originally, I don't know if anybody picked us to be here at the end anyway," Adrian head coach Randy Strand said. "We're happy we got that part done. We won 20 ballgames; that's a good season for a lot of ball teams."

However, even though the Dragons had a chance for the title, Adrian will still head into the section playoffs as a tri-champion.

"Disappointment is when you beat yourself, and we didn't beat ourselves; they stepped up and beat us," Strand said following the game. "That happens; it's hard to get disappointed with high school kids. We'll strap it up and get back at it."

Adrian found itself in an early 7-5 hole after a rebound and putback from Fulda's Mari Holinka (six points, 12 rebounds).

However, behind a 3-point play from Katy Slater (nine points), Adrian went on a 10-0 run to open up a 15-7 lead.

The Dragons later opened up a 26-14 lead -- the biggest of the night for either team -- with just four minutes left in the first half.

"I thought we didn't make shots, but Adrian played outstanding defense," Slaathaug said of the first half. "They didn't give us any easy looks. The first half we give all the credit to Adrian, they played outstanding defense."

However, behind a deuce, a free throw and a trey from Lane Gehl (15 points), the Raiders were back within six points.

The teams traded baskets in the final three minutes, but Sam Lynn (24 points, seven rebounds) was fouled on a last second 3-point attempt and hit all three foul shots to give Adrian a 35-28 lead at the break.

"I thought it was really intense," Gehl said. "At halftime we got yelled at a little bit, but I think we were ready all along. After the Slayton game, we knew we really had to pick it up, so I think we did good."

With Slaathaug telling his team to keep doing what they've been doing, the Raiders quickly erased the lead.

With 11:30 left in the game, a trey from Brittany Hulstein (15 points) from the right wing tied the game at 41-all.

"I didn't think that we were down by more than we could overcome," Slaathaug said. "I thought if we kept plugging away at where we were, we'd eventually catch them and overtake them."

The Dragons, however, would not go quietly.

Lynn hit a shot and Karli Meyer hit a pair of free throws to give the Dragons back the lead.

But, behind a shot from Amy Paulzine (10 points, 11 rebounds) and a trey from Sam Raddle (14 points, six assists), the Raiders went on an 11-0 run -- giving them a 52-45 lead.

"I thought the things we did in the first half were that we played solid team defense, we rebounded well and we made free throws," Strand said. "Those three things didn't show up in the second half, and that was the difference in the ballgame."

Melissa Weidert hit a shot to pull Adrian back within five, and Lynn made a late trey to keep the game at six points.

"I don't think we played very well," Strand said. "I give them credit. The things we did the first half they kind of took away (from us) in the second half. We never really stepped up to it and got the job done."

But the Dragons couldn't get any closer as Fulda's Raddle made four of five free throws down the stretch to seal a 65-58 victory.

"It was a big step up from Saturday when we played MCC. We weren't really ourselves, but today was a really big win," Paulzine said. "We really wanted to play as a team and just get back to our normal selves."

Adrian, which earned the No. 1 seed in the Section 3A South sub-section, will face either Edgerton or Westbrook-Walnut Grove at noon Saturday in Worthington.

Fulda, which earned the No. 2 seed in the same section, will face either Ellsworth or Hills-Beaver Creek at 1:30 Saturday in Worthington.

Fulda 28 37 -- 65

Adrian 35 23 -- 58

Fulda (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Raddle 1-2-7-14, Kuehne 0-1-1-3, B. Hulstein 3-3-0-15, Holinka 0-2-2-6, Gehl 1-4-4-15, Goedtke 0-1-0-2, Paulzine 0-5-0-10. Totals 5-18-14-65.

Adrian (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) E. Thier 2-0-5-11, Lynn 1-7-7-24, Loosbrock 0-1-0-2, Slater 0-3-3-9, Block 1-0-2-5, Weidert 0-1-0-2, Meyer 0-1-3-5. Totals 4-13-20-58.