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SWC does it again: Behind strong second half by Morgan Pap, Eagles girls basketball team wins another sub-section title

A seemingly safe Southwest Minnesota Christian lead had melted down to six and the team’s All-State star was on the bench in foul trouble midway through the second half here Monday night.

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Southwest MN Christian Eagles Maren Nerem (41) drives through a gap in the Hills-Beaver Creek Patriots defenders Sam Moser (on left), Allie LaRock (51) and Kenadie Fick Monday evening in Edgerton during South Sub-Section 3A play Mar. 22 2021. (Tim Middagh/The Globe)

EDGERTON — A seemingly safe Southwest Minnesota Christian lead had melted down to six and the team’s All-State star was on the bench in foul trouble midway through the second half here Monday night.

So the Eagles turned to Morgan Pap.

“We always had the confidence,” Pap said. “We needed to keep our intensity up so they didn’t take it from us.”

Pap scored 15 of her game-high 19 points in the second half as Southwest Christian defeated Hills-Beaver Creek 61-54 to win another 3A Sub-section south championship.

Junior reserve Makenna Moss added five important points down the stretch as the Eagles held off the Patriots to win sub-section honors for the sixth year in a row.

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Southwest Christian advances to take on Minneota in the Section 3A championship game Thursday night in Pipestone.

Senior standout Maren Nerem scored 11 points in the first half and the Eagles used an 18-0 run to build a huge lead. Nerem, daughter of SWC girls coach Denise Nerem, shot 5-for-5 in the opening 18 minutes.

The Eagles’ aggressive defense forced 21 H-BC turnovers as Southwest earned a 32-17 halftime bulge.

But in the second half, with Nerem sitting out much of the time in foul trouble, the Patriots battled back behind senior guard Taryn Rauk and junior sharpshooter Kenadie Fick.

Rauk’s 3-pointer with eight minutes left got the Patriots to within seven. But Moss answered with consecutive hoops.

With about five minutes left, Pap -- daughter of Southwest boys hoops coach Jamie Pap -- connected on a pretty bank shot. The next trip down she nailed a 3-pointer, followed quickly by another basket.

The Eagles, winners of two of three against H-BC this season, were not to be denied. It was the program’s 11th sub-section championship and, counting 11 titles in the former District 8, its 22nd overall dating back to 1974.

The Eagles’ swarming defense was all over H-BC in the first half, leading to an 18-0 run that featured five Pats’ turnovers. Southwest Christian received contributions from Cybil Vander Top, Hannah Pap, Rylie Fey and Nerem, especially, during the flurry.

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“We want to take every single possession and win every one on defense, because that’s going to get our offense going,” said Maren Narem.

The big run was all defense, said coach Nerem.

“We traveled really well when the ball was in the air and arrived at the same time they did,” coach Nerem said of the defensive intensity that sparked the run. “We dropped really well on defense and fronted the ball well.”

Senior guard Abby Knobloch scored 12 points for Hills-Beaver Creek, which finished at 16-4. Sam Moser added eight for the Pats, who defeated SCW 57-53 on Jan. 15 and fell to the Eagles 61-53 on March 13.

“They’re a very good team,” coach Nerem said. “We expected that grind and they gave us a good game, for sure.”

The deficit proved too much for the Pats.

“We let them get out to a big lead and it took everything we had to battle back,” said H-BC coach Kale Wiertzema. “We had our chances in the second half but couldn’t quite get (the deficit) under six.

“But our girls battled and showed a lot of heart after getting down that big.”

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Wiertzema liked how his team responded to the adversity, but he wished the first half had been different.

“I expected a knockout, drag-out fight, a back-and-forth game, and I liked our chances in a game like that,” Wiertzema said. “But they punched us in the mouth right away and we had to give it everything we had to get back in it.”

The Eagles (18-3) advance to meet defending Section 3A champion and top-ranked Minneota, which won the North Sub-Section title with a 68-49 trouncing of Lac qui Parle Valley.

The Eagles know Minneota’s fine program very well. Last year SWC lost to the Vikings 78-50 in the section championship game. Last month in Edgerton, Minneota clipped the Eagles by nine in a non-conference game.

“We’re going to be working hard for Minneota this week,” Maren Nerem said. “And we’re going to come hungry.”

Hills-Beaver Creek 17 54

Southwest Christian 32 61

HILLS—BEAVER CREEK (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) — Kenadie Fick 2-2-5-15, Taryn Rauk 1-4-1-12, Abby Knobloch 2-2-2-12, Lanae Tate 0-0-2-2, Sam Moser 0-4-0-8, Allie LaRock 0-2-1-5. Totals: 5-14-11-54.

SOUTHWEST CHRISTIAN (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) — Cybil Vander Top 1-1-2-7, Hannah Pap 0-3-2-8, Makenzie Snyder 0-1-0-2, Ella Veldkamp 0-1-0-2, Rylie Fey 0-3-0-6, Morgan Pap 2-4-5-19, Brooklynn Moss 0-0-1-1, Maren Nerem 0-5-1-11, Makenna Moss 0-2-1-5. Totals: 3-20-12-61.

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Southwest MN Christian Eagles student section cheers after a score against Hills-Beaver Creek Patriots during South Sub-Section 3A play Mar. 22 2021. (Tim Middagh/The Globe)

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