Section 3A basketball: Falcons girls hold off Adrian surge to capture tourney win

Les Knutson Dialy Globe WORTHINGTON -- Executing better offensively and playing especially strong off the offensive glass, Red Rock Central stretched a 30-26 halftime edge into a commanding 58-37 lead over the first 11 minutes of the second half ...

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Red Rock Central's Rachel Kedl (21) bolts past Adrian's Mikayla Jeffers (45) on a fastbreak and finishes with a layup in Section 3A girls basketball tournament action on Tuesday at Worthington High School. (Tim Middagh / Daily Globe)

Les Knutson

Dialy Globe

WORTHINGTON -- Executing better offensively and playing especially strong off the offensive glass, Red Rock Central stretched a 30-26 halftime edge into a commanding 58-37 lead over the first 11 minutes of the second half in Tuesday night’s Section 3A South semifinal battle with the Adrian Dragons.
Trailing by 21 points with seven minutes remaining, the Dragons suddenly caught fire and finished the game on an impressive 25-10 run of their own, but fell six points short as the top-seeded Falcons advanced to the championship game with a 68-62 victory.
It was the 19th consecutive victory for RRC (25-3) and the Falcons will square off with Southwest Christian (23-3) in a repeat title clash March 3 at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall with tipoff scheduled for 6 p.m.
After a closely-contested first half Tuesday, which featured several lead changes, RRC opened the second half with a perfectly executed pick-and-roll play from Ramsey Piotter to Rachel Kedl.
Immediately after the basket, the Falcons trapped the Dragons in the corner and forced Adrian head coach Randy Strand to call a quick timeout.
Effectively applying full-court pressure and getting numerous offensive rebounds following missed shots, RRC assumed control.
The catalyst for the Falcons during much of that second-half surge was 5-11 sophomore post Kaitlyn Rindfleisch who scored three second-chance baskets during a 22-6 RRC run, which helped her team to a 52-32 lead at the 10:09 mark.
“Kaitlyn played strong, working hard inside,” praised RRC head coach Kylie Salfer. “Our offensive rebounding sure helped us.”
Sophomore Vanessa Kedl also scored twice with nice moves inside and sophomore Karina Klabunde had a putback bucket, too, during that span as the Falcon widened the margin.
“We gave up too many offensive rebounds early in the second half,” summed up veteran Adrian head coach Randy Strand. “Once, we starting getting some rebounds ourselves and were able to get the ball down to our end, we hit several three-pointers and got rolling pretty good.”
Indeed, Adrian -- sparked by the all-around play of junior guard Hannah Bullerman (16 points, 12 rebounds, eight assists, one steal -- rallied back, slicing the lead to scores of 59-46, 62-51 63-55, 66-58 and 67-60 before the final six-point spread.
“We started setting better screens and had Hannah drive to the hoop,” said Strand. “She deserves a purple heart as she has really been playing with some painful shin splints.”
Bullerman scored 11 second-half points and also fired passes out to senior sharpshooter Mikayla Jeffers (three second-half three pointers) or fed inside to junior post Paige Bullerman (14 points on six-of-six from the field and a pair of free throws, along with seven rebounds).
“We never gave up and really had a nice comeback,” Strand said. “RRC has a good all-around team and has sure had a great season.”
Adrian, which was seeded fifth in the tournament and finished with an overall record of 11-15, also received strong contributing efforts from Jeffers (12 points), Kaitlyn Christians (10 points, five rebounds), Lexi Slater (10 rebounds, seven points, three steals), Moriah Bullerman (three points, two assists, one steal) and Bailey Lonneman (three rebounds, one assist).
Four players notched double figures for the Falcons, led the all-around play of Piotter (16 points, five assists, five steals). Haley Simonson scored 14 points for RRC, including eight free throws -- most of them in the closing minutes.
Rachel Kedl (13 points, nine rebounds), Rindfleisch (12 points, 10 rebounds) and Klabunde (six points, six rebounds) were forces off the boards for the Falcons, claiming six, five and four offensive rebounds, respectively.

Adrian 26 62
Red Rock Central 30 68


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Adrian's Kaitlyn Christians corrals the rebound and is defended by Red Rock Central's Karina Klabunds in Section 3A tournament action on Tuesday in Worthington. (Tim Middagh / Daily Globe)

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