MARSHALL - Entering Tuesday's game with Jackson County Central, it would have been easy to argue that the Marshall girls' basketball team had experienced an ideal start to its season. The Tigers had, up to that point, compiled a 5-0 record and cracked the Class AAA rankings at No. 9.
If there were any questions as to how the Tigers had managed their torrid start, they were answered after the first seven minutes of Marshall's 84-44 win over the Huskies.
Behind their high-pressure defense and lights-out shooting, the Tigers opened up a 30-4 lead over JCC with 11 minutes, 17 seconds remaining in the first half.
Photo by Travis Andries
Marshall’s Sarah Buysse releases a perimeter shot during the first half of the Tigers’ Southwest Conference game against Jackson County Central Tuesday night at Marshall High School. Buysse had nine points in the Marshall victory.
"Our pressure is so important and I thought our kids did a nice job in our pressure there to start the game," Marshall head coach Dan Westby said. "I thought Hannah Bennett hit a couple big shots for us early and kind of got us going, and Morgan Saugstad came in and gave us a nice boost from the 3-point line again. She's really starting to play well."
Bennett had back-to-back baskets separated by 11 seconds to cap off Marshall's initial 8-0 run to start the game, while Saugstad knocked down a pair of 3s in the middle of two later Tiger runs. The first 3 from Saugstad came during a 10-0 run that gave the Tigers an 18-2 lead with 13:41 to go in the opening half. The second followed a 3-pointer from Kelsey Saugstad and an ensuing JCC turnover and powered the Tigers to their 30-4 lead.
"I think our kids have been so good at being unselfish with the ball, making the extra pass," Westby said. "It's really been fun to watch."
Julia Schumann 0 2-4 2, Angela Handzus 1 2-2 4, Kaylee Burmeister 4 2-2 10, Rachel Johnson 1 0-2 2, Marita Rasche 3 5-6 11, Brooke Klontz 1 0-0 2, Jade Holthe 0 1-2 1, Lydia Brandt 4 4-7 12. Totals 14 16-25 44.
Sarah Buysse 4 0-2 9, Morgan Saugstad 6 1-2 16, Kelsey Saugstad 5 1-1 14, Kenzie Beekman 7 4-4 18, Hannah Bennett 5 3-4 13, Jenna Christianson 1 0-0 2, Callie Graff 2 0-0 4, Sarah Andersen 1 3-6 5, Jackie Petrich 1 1-1 3, Emma Doyle 0 0-1 0. Totals 32 13-21 84. 3-pointers 7 (M. Saugstad 3, K. Saugstad 3) Rebounds 37 (Beekman 8, K. Saugstad 7) Assists 16 (K. Saugstad 4, Bennett 3) Turnovers 8.
Halftime Score: Marshall 52, JCC 24
The Tigers continued to add to their lead, holding their biggest advantage of the first half at 51-19 with 2:23 before halftime. JCC responded with a 5-0 run before the break, but was unable to build off of that momentum in the second half.
Morgan Saugstad scored 13 of her 16 total points during the first half, taking advantage of the open looks created by the Tigers' slashing offense.
"My teammates helped me a lot to get open," she said. "They drove in well and I was ready for them to kick it out."
Despite facing a size disadvantage on paper, the Tigers were able to dominate on the interior. The Tigers had 37 team rebounds, with Kenzie Beekman and Kelsey Saugstad pulling down eight and seven boards, respectively.
"We worked on boxing out a lot during practice, so that was one of our points of emphasis today was to box out and run the floor," Kelsey Saugstad said.
Saugstad also added four assists and 14 points to the Tigers' victory, while Beekman led all scorers with 18 points.
Marshall used a 10-4 run to start the second half to put to rest any idea of a JCC comeback, and continued to add to its margin of victory over the game's final 15 minutes. The Tigers' largest lead came from its last points, as Jackie Petrich converted an and-one opportunity to give Marshall an 84-43 lead with 2:44 to play. JCC made one final free throw in the last minute.
Despite the thoroughness of its victory over the Huskies, the Tigers still have not peaked, according to their head coach.
"I thought we gave up too many offensive boards in that first half," Westby said. "(JCC was) 10 of 17 from the free throw line in the first half, and a number of those came as a result of offensive rebounds and then we ended up fouling, so that was kind of disappointing. It's something that we need to continue to work at, it's something we need to have every night."
Still, Westby has been impressed by his team's start to this season and the camaraderie it has shown in the early going.
"This group of kids likes to play, they really like to play together and that's always a positive. Hopefully that will continue," Westby said.
The Tigers (6-0 overall, 3-0 Southwest Conference) will look to remain unbeaten on the season, as well as in the conference, when they host the Luverne Cardinals on Friday.