MW BASKETBALL: Free throws seal win for Lady Jays

WORTHINGTON -- Free throws are supposed to be some of the easiest shots in a basketball game. In Saturday's women's college contest, Kayla Vander Veen and her Minnesota West teammates made them look easy. When they counted, at least. The Lady Jay...

MW's Lynn
Brian Korthals/Daily Globe Lady Jay Sam Lynn (23) drives to the basket for a layup during Saturday afternoon's game at MN West in Worthington.

WORTHINGTON -- Free throws are supposed to be some of the easiest shots in a basketball game.

In Saturday's women's college contest, Kayla Vander Veen and her Minnesota West teammates made them look easy.

When they counted, at least.

The Lady Jays made 17 of 20 free throws in the second half, including 13 of 16 in the final six minutes in a 73-66 victory against the University of Sioux Falls Junior Varsity.

"It was a little stressful," said Vander Veen, who made six of eight foul shots in the final four minutes and finished with 15 points. "We shoot a lot of free throws at practice, for a long time. So I think that was good, that helped me."


The Lady Jays (3-1) weren't as good from the line in the first half, making only five in 13 attempts.

"In the first half, if we would have made four more, we still wouldn't have been shooting that good, but we would have had a 17-point lead," MW head coach Mike Fury said. "The second half was good, we made up for that."

MW didn't need the easy points in the first half -- they were playing well enough offensively.

"We had a lot of poise on offense," Fury said. "I thought that was as good as we played offensively. We looked inside and had some great, great looks. We had nice passing. I think that's as good as we've played for the first 19 minutes and 54 seconds."

USF's Brooke Olsen (game-high 20 points) hit a 3 to give the Cougars a 4-2 lead early on.

It was the only time MW trailed in the game.

"I think our defense was a lot better tonight," Vander Veen said. "We played more as a team and helped a lot. On screens, we talked through everything.

"We worked a lot in practice this week. We had three days of practice before tonight, so I think that helped us."


LoRel Christensen answered with a basket off a nice dish from Alyssa Smith (14 points) to start a run and Vander Veen capped the run with a 3 as the Lady Jays opened up an 11-4 lead.

"We were pretty smooth. We were getting great looks and we took it to the hoop a couple of times," Fury said. "We found Alyssa, we found LoRel and Alyson (Drooger) had a nice pass over to LoRel, so that was a nice half."

Vander Veen later hit another 3, pushing the lead to 10 points before consecutive 3s by Kayla Schroeder and Sam Lynn gave the Lady Jays a 37-22 lead with a minute until halftime.

Olsen had a steal and layup right before half, cutting the deficit to 13 points.

"We kind of let up right there before the end of the half and gave them an easy bucket," Fury said. "If we Wouldn't have done that, we would have had an even bigger lead."

Turns out, MW needed every one of those points.

The Cougars hit a pair of 3s to open the half and cut the deficit to 37-32.

"Here we are, talking about the first five minutes of the second half," Fury said. "They went on a nice run to start the half, and you can't have that. The good thing was, we hung in there and got it up to nine, but they made another run at us. We just couldn't quite get over the hump. We needed one of those big 3s to fall. And they're going to."


Lynn (team-high 19 points) scored on a drive and a pair of free throws, but the Cougars wouldn't go quietly.

"We had a few turnovers and we didn't play defense strong enough, so they got a lot of shots off," Vander Veen said. "I think we all got a little worried, so that's how we stepped it up. I think we just got scared and we knew we had to pick it up right then, otherwise they were going to get a lead and we'd have to fight back."

With a 60-58 lead in the final five minutes, Drooger made a game-changing play.

Anticipating a pass to the wing, Drooger stepped in front, made the steal and converted a layup, giving MW a four-point advantage.

"That was a great move, a reverse-pivot, right-handed layup," Fury said. "I didn't think she'd get in on the left side because the player had the angle. But then she reversed pivoted and made it with her other hand. It was a great move and a great steal."

That would be the final field goal of the game for MW.

Vander Veen and Smith each made a free throw, while Lynn and Drooger each made a pair as the lead was up to eight points.

"I took a deep breath and focused in," Vander Veen said. "I knew it was important, we needed them for the last few minutes."


Vander Veen then made five more in the final 39 seconds, sending MW to a 73-66 victory.

"We're learning a lot," said Fury, whose team plays at Northwestern tonight. "Our three wins -- and even our loss -- have been close games. That is teaching us a lot. We really learn a lot playing under pressure like that. Our opponents are tough and we're playing tough, too."

USF JV 24 42 -- 66

MN West 37 36 -- 73

USF JV (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Burkett 1-0-0-3, Bierma 1-1-1-6, Fife 1-4-1-12, Hofer 1-1-0-5, Slaba 1-4-3-14, Duerweg 0-1-0-2, Olsen 2-5-4-20, Zemprich 1-0-1-4. Totals 8-16-10-66.

MN West (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Thier 0-1-0-2, Vander Veen 2-1-7-15, Smith 0-4-6-14, Lynn 1-6-4-19, Drooger 1-3-4-13, Schroeder 1-1-0-5, Christensen 0-2-1-5. Totals 5-18-22-73.

MW's Vander Veen
Brian Korthals/Daily Globe Lady Jay Kayla Vander Veen (4) leads a fastbreak down the court during Saturday afternoon's game with USF at Minnesota West in Worthington.

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