SECTION 3A GIRLS BASKETBALL: No. 1 Minneota uses depth and defense to take out No. 9 Hendricks in sections

Minneota’s Lizzy Gillingham (left) and Morgan Kockelman (right) team up to defend Hendricks’ Greta Johnson during their Section 3A tournament game on Friday. The Vikings defeated the Grizzlies 66-41.

MINNEOTA – A day after knocking out Lakeview, the Hendricks girls basketball team faced another challenging task with a matchup against the No. 1 seed in the Section 3A North in the Minneota Vikings. The Grizzlies put up a spirited effort, but the size, speed and depth of the Vikings was too much as Minneota advanced with a 66-41 victory on Friday.

Minneota coach Chad Johnston said he was pleased with his team’s effort as a whole and wanted to wear the Grizzlies down in the second game of a back-to-back.

“We tried to go after them a little bit. They don’t have a whole lot of a bench and with them playing on Thursday, we tried to use that to our advantage and try to wear them down,” Johnston said. “Overall, I was pretty happy with a lot of things that we did. I thought we could have done some things more on the inside of the game, but that’s a learning tool and we’ll go from there.”

The Vikings got out to a strong start, as Minneota took an 11-2 lead with 13:45 left in the first half. After finding their groove early against the Lakers on Thursday, the Grizzlies struggled to string together baskets early before they connected on a 3-pointer to make it 16-6 in favor of the Vikings with 10 minutes left.

Hendricks kept itself in the game over the next few minutes through some strong defensive play, creating Minneota turnovers to stay within a 10-point deficit. The Vikings answered back, however, getting a 3-pointer from Abby Hennen and a layup from Lizzy Gillingham to take a 28-17 lead with 3:30 before going up 32-17 at the half.

In the second half, the Vikings used another quick start, as they went on a 6-0 run in the beginning stages of the half. A 3-pointer from Abby Hennen pushed Minneota’s advantage to 43-19, as the Vikings maintained at least a 20-point lead throughout the majority of the second half. Minneota’s defense continued to turn up the pressure in the final frame, with the Vikings converting on the Grizzlies’ turnovers to build a 56-23 lead with seven minutes to go.

A pair of free throws from Hendricks’ Sophie Johnson broke the Grizzlies scoreless streak and would use a run of their own to cut into the deficit, going on an 8-3 spurt to make it 59-33.

But that was the closest the Grizzlies would get the rest of the way as the Vikings would counter with a 3-pointer by Natalee Rolbiecki and a transition layup from Morgan Kockelman to bring it back to a 64-33 lead. Hendricks would compete hard to the finish, going on an 8-2 run to end the game, but the Vikings fast starts and solid defense proved to be the difference maker.

Abby Hennen led the way for Minneota with 18 points while Lydia Sussner added 15 and Gillingham had 10. Sussner led in rebounds with 19 while Kockelman led in assists with six.

Johnston said their key on offense was their ability to knock down some perimeter shots as well as getting out in transition.

“We made some outside shots, and it wasn’t like we lit it up or anything, but Abby Hennnen hit a couple of nice threes and Natalee had some also so we hit some outside shots,” Johnston said. “Our movement was good and we had some points in transition. They’re things that we’ve been doing well all year long and we just need to keep building on them.”

Leading the way for the Grizzlies was Sophie Johnson with 14 points while Kaylee Johnson added 10 and Greta Johnson had nine.

With the loss, the Grizzlies finish with a record of 15-5. Hendricks coach Mike Evert said he was proud of the way his team fought all season long, especially against one of the tougher teams in Minneota.

“They always give me a great effort all year long and this game, with us playing six kids and them playing eight or nine, I thought we played very well against one of the top teams in Class A,” Evert said. “Our kids did a very nice job, especially against Sussner. They hurt us on the boards a little bit and fatigue was a big thing on our offensive end; we couldn’t shoot and didn’t have enough energy to get open and get shots. We played a good team and they’re going to do well and I’m very proud of this team and their effort.”

Defensively, the Vikings forced 29 turnovers and had 17 steals. Johnston said their key on the defensive end was cleaning up their rotation and forcing Hendricks into making some errors.

“I think it was a matter of our rotation which was a little bit better earlier and we were getting some traps, but we weren’t rotating. In the second half, we rotated better and didn’t give them those easy looks and just create some more turnovers for them.”

With the win, Minneota moves to 22-4 and will face the winner of the No. 4N Yellow Medicine East and No. 5N MACCRAY game on Tuesday at 6 p.m. at SMSU.

Hendricks 17 24 — 41

Minneota 32 34 — 66

SCORING: Minneota 27-68, 39.7 percent (A. Hennen 7-15, 1-2 18; Sussner 6-15, 3-6 15; Gillingham 4-9, 0-1 10; A. Hennen 4-11, 0-0 8; Kockelman 3-8, 0-2 7; Rolbiecki 2-4, 0-0 6; Muhl 1-2, 0-0 2); Hendricks 12-37, 32.4 percent (Sophie Johnson 4-12, 6-9 14; Kaylee Johnson 4-11, 0-0 10; Greta Johnson 1-5, 6-6 9; Satterlee 2-7, 0-2 4; Hofer 1-2, 1-1 3; Siverson 0-0 1-1 1).

3-POINTERS: Minneota 8-16, 50 percent (A. Hennen 3; Gillingham, Rolbiecki 2; Kockelman 1); Hendricks 3-10, 30 percent (Kaylee Johnson 2; Greta Johnson 1).

REBOUNDS: Minneota 30 (Sussner 19); Hendricks 24 (Sophie Johnson 7; Satterlee 6).

ASSISTS: Minneota 18 (Kockelman 6; M. Hennen 5; A. Hennen 4); Hendricks 3 (Sophie Johnson 2, Hofer 1).

STEALS: Minneota 17 (Rolbiecki, M. Hennen 4); Hendricks 4 (Sophie Johnson 2; Hofer, Greta Johnson 1).

BLOCKS: Minneota 2 (Sussner, M. Hennen 1); Hendricks 1 (Sophie Johnson).

FOULS: Minneota 18; Hendricks 10.

TURNOVERS: Minneota 16; Hendricks 29.