Minnesota state girls basketball tournament: SWC runs with MCA

MINNEAPOLIS -- One word could easily be used to describe Thursday's Class A Girls State Tournament quarterfinal between Southwest Minnesota Christian and Maranatha Christian Academy.Speed.Both squads ran up and down the floor in a game that more ...

TIM MIDDAGH/DAILY GLOBE Southwest Minnesota Christian’s Mariah Talsma (31) goes up for a shot at Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis Thursday in the first round of the Class A girls state basketball tournament. The Eagles lost to Maranatha Christian Academy, 91-79.


MINNEAPOLIS - One word could easily be used to describe Thursday’s Class A Girls State Tournament quarterfinal between Southwest Minnesota Christian and Maranatha Christian Academy.
Both squads ran up and down the floor in a game that more closely resembled a track meet from start to finish. One big run by the Mustangs proved to be the difference, however, as the Eagles’ season came to a close with a 91-79 loss.
“They’re fast,” said SWC junior Chantel Groen, who finished with 30 points on 11-of-18 from the field. “They’re one of the fastest and toughest teams we’ve played all season. We were just trying to go fast. Trying to guard them and doing it for Ann Pater.”
That last sentiment was one that could be felt throughout. The Eagles, who entered the game with a 27-1 overall record, had to play without senior leader Ann Pater. After averaging 6.14 rebounds - most on the team - and 11.79 points - second on the the team, Pater couldn’t play after having a bad reaction to antibiotics she was given for strep throat over the weekend.
At the end of the game, the SWC players held up Pater’s uniform No. 5 to honor their missing teammate.
“You could see from all the ‘5s’ they were showing how much everyone loves her,” Southwest head coach Denise Nerem said.
“We just wanted to do it for her and it made us all try harder,” Groen said. “We knew someone had to step up and we had a lot of girls that played well tonight.”
As far as the speed goes, MCA was indeed fast. But Nerem was quick to point out that her team held its own.
“Our bench did a great job,” she said. “One of the problems was, they sent too many cherry-pickers that we didn’t read and we send everybody to the boards. I think we kept up great, we just had a few too many turnovers.”
The defining stretch in how the game turned out happened midway through the second half. Buckets for Hannah Nerem, Brooklyn DeKam and Groen closed what was once a 10-point Eagles’ deficit to four at 65-61 with 12:26 to go.
The Mustangs responded with a 12-0 surge that included 3-pointers by both Jaclyn Jarnot and Alaina Jarnot - a sister combo that accounted for 58 points. That put MCA on top 75-61. Groen scored six points and Mariah Talsma added a late bucket as time ran low, but the damage was too great to overcome.
“We just didn’t come out very great in the second half,” Eagles senior Hope Veldkamp said. “They’re very quick. (We might have got) a little tired, but not too much.”
The breakneck pace was established right away. Early on, it looked like Southwest Christian might run away with it both literally and figuratively.
The Eagles - not the Mustangs - were playing like the team with seven straight years of state tournament experience at the game’s outset. With MCA throwing up wild, ill-advised shots, Groen scored four quick points to put her team up 11-2 before Emily Nerem’s second 3-pointer of the evening made it a 14-6 ballgame with four minutes gone by.
“We played a great game,” said SWC senior Mariah Talsma, who finished with 16 points and was 6-for-7 from the field. “Everyone played hard. Honestly I think that’s one of the best games we’ve played all year. I have no regrets.
“We knew we were ready. We came out as hard as possible because we knew the first five minutes were going to be very important.”
Two free throws by Talsma - who finished the first half with 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting - put SWC on top 22-12 with 12:16 before halftime before MCA started to make its comeback in earnest. It went on an 8-2 run to get within four before Hannah Nerem banked in a runner for Southwest.
Groen - who went 7-for-8 from the free throw line in the first half after a dismal, 1-of-8 showing in the opening frame of the Section 3A title game - put back her own miss on a breakaway to put the Eagles back up by eight, 34-26, with 7:07 to go.
“I practiced a lot,” Groen said about her free throws following last Thursday’s showing against Wabasso. “But it was really just about telling myself that it was going to go in. I just told myself that they were going to go in and I wasn’t nervous at all. I just shot them.”
That’s when MCA made its big push. With lightning-quick point guard Alaina Jarnot leading the way, it went on an 11-2 run to earn its first lead of the ballgame. That came on a Jaclyn Jarnot layup off of a feed from her older sister 3:56 prior to the half. The two squads traded the lead back and forth, but an 8-3 surge for the Mustangs had them in control at 47-43 with time ticking below 30 seconds.
This time, it was SWC’s sisters doing some damage.
Emily Nerem, a sophomore, made a layup with 12 seconds to go that cut the deficit to two. After an MCA turnover, Hannah, a freshman, was fouled as the buzzer rang. All by herself at the free throw line, she sank both shots to set the score at 47-47 going into the break.
“Hannah’s done a great job for us all year in practice,” Coach Nerem said. “It’s just started to come around in the last few games so it’s been good to see her turn that corner.”
Groen led the Eagles with 30 points while collecting five rebounds and two steals. Talsma had 16 points and nine boards with Emily Nerem scoring 14 and dishing two assists. Hannah Nerem added 10 points with Kassydi Vreeman grabbing eight rebounds.
Jaclyn Jarnot had a monster game with 33 points, 16 rebounds, eight steals, four blocks and three assists. Alaina Jarnot had 25 points and 14 assists with Sami Payne scoring 17 and Kylie Post adding 11.
“We worked very hard and we put in all of the necessary work,” Coach Nerem said. “We just had one bad spurt and a good team like that can use that to put you away in a hurry.”
SWC 47 79
MCA 47 91
EAGLES (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) - Vreeman 0-1-0-2, E. Nerem 2-3-2-14, Talsma 0-6-4-16, Groen 0-11-8-30, DeKam 0-3-0-6, Homandberg 0-0-1-1, H. Nerem 0-3-0-4-10. Totals 2-27-19-79.
MUSTANGS (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) - J. Jarnot 1-13-4-33, Post 0-4-3-11, Moore 0-1-1-3, A. Jarnot 1-9-4-25, Payne 0-7-3-17, Smith 0-1-0-2. Totals 2-35-15-91.

TIM MIDDAGH/DAILY GLOBE Saddened to see their season come to an end at the state tournament Thursday, Southwest Minnesota Christian players walk off the floor at Mariucci Arena.

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