SECTION 3A GIRLS BASKETBALL: No. 1 Minneota uses strong offense to take out No. 4 YME in section quarterfinals

Photo by Sam Thiel Minneota’s Lizzy Gillingham drives past YME’s Kaitlyn Mortenson during their Section 3A North semifinal game on Tuesday. Minneota won 57-39.

MARSHALL – With one win each underneath their belts in the postseason, the Minneota and Yellow Medicine East girls basketball teams looked to add to that number on Tuesday night at SMSU in the Section 3A North Semifinals. The No. 1 seeded Vikings were able to withstand a late first-half rally by the No. 4 seeded Sting before taking control of the pace in the second half to advance with a 57-39 victory.

It was all Minneota to start, as the Vikings opened the game on an 11-0 run while holding YME scoreless for the first four and a half minutes before a 3-pointer from Madison Hinz put the Sting on the board with 13:21 left.

The Vikings continued to add to their lead over the next couple of minutes, taking advantage of early turnovers from YME and would take their first double-digit lead of the night at 15-5 with 11 minutes to go in the first half.

The Sting hung around, though, as they got a 3-pointer from Kaitlyn Mortenson to keep the score at a 10-point difference before a pair of free throws from Mackenzie Dyrdahl cut it to single digits. YME then started to catch fire from behind the arc, with the Sting connecting on three straight triples – including two from Hinz – to make it a one-point game at 20-19 with 3:40 remaining.

Minneota would respond to YME’s run with a little spurt of its own to end the half, as the Vikings got a pair of 3-pointers from Morgan Kockelman to highlight a 9-3 run to head into the locker rooms with a 29-22 halftime lead.

Unlike its opening counterpart, the start to the second was slowed down, as neither team could find a rhythm early. An Anna McCosh jumper would cut YME’s deficit to five at 35-30 with 12:30 left, but Minneota continued to attack the glass in the second half, getting multiple offensive rebounds to create second chances. A 3-pointer from Natalee Rolbiecki gave the Vikings a nine-point advantage before a Morgan Hennen jumper pushed Minneota’s lead back to double digits at 41-30 with 10:12 left.

The Vikings would then start to work the ball inside to post Lydia Sussner, who capitalized with a string of layups to extend Minneota’s lead to 15. The Vikings maintained at least a 15-point advantage the rest of the way, building the lead to as large as 21 on a Lizzy Gillingham 3-point play, before moving on with the 57-39 victory.

Minneota coach Chad Johnston was pleased with his team’s work effort throughout the game, especially on the glass.

“I thought the girls really worked hard. We weren’t 100 percent happy with the boxing out, but our rebounding was obviously huge in our favor,” Johnston said. “That tells me that even though we aren’t boxing out that well, we’re going after boards and working hard and those are things you have to be doing at this time of the year against good teams.”

Sussner led the way for the Vikings with 15 points while Gillingham added 12 and Kockelman had 10. Sussner led in rebounds with nine while Abby Hennen led in assists with six.

Johnston said their key on offense was spreading the ball around before trying to get looks inside the paint.

“We got them (YME) spread out a little bit more and they were playing into a zone which helped us create better passing lanes,” Johnston said. “We probably saw them better in the second half than in the first on offense.”

McCosh and Hinz led the way for the Sting with 11 points each while Dyrdahl added eight. Dyrdahl led in rebounds with six while Hinz led in assists with three.

YME coach Randy Haakenson said he thought his team did a nice job of competing hard against one of the tougher teams in the section.

“I think we competed a lot harder. We’ve got a tough section and we’ve got nothing to hang our heads low about,” Haakenson said. “I was proud of the way we came out and played and I know that we lost by 20ish points, but I felt the game was a lot closer and more competitive than that and we did everything we could.”

Defensively, the Vikings forced 16 turnovers and had nine steals while holding YME to just 27.9 percent shooting. Johnston said on defense they were able to do a good job of limiting YME’s height advantage and their looks inside.

“We played man-to-man the whole game knowing that we give up a lot of height to them. We didn’t give up a lot inside other than a couple of looks but for the most part we did a good job,” Johnston said. “We probably have to do a little better coming off screens and regardless of who we play next we’re going to see a lot of screens, so we’re going to have to work on that.”

YME ends its season with a 17-8 record and graduates four players in Mortenson, McCosh, Kaitlyn Mathiowetz and Chelsey Niemeyer. Haakenson said they’ll still have a good group of youth that will return to their lineup next season.

“We’ve got a pretty young team. We’ve got five girls that we think can step onto the court next season and do a good job,” Haakenson said. “One of our concerns will be our depth but that’s what summer programs are for, but we’ve definitely got some girls that can step in and make us a competitive basketball team.”

Minneota (23-7) advances to the Section 3A North Championship game and will face Lac qui Parle Valley on Friday at 8 p.m. at SMSU. Johnston said they just need to stick to their game and control what they can control.

“At this point in time, we’ve pretty much seen everyone in the section. We just have to stick to what we’re doing, be confident and stay focused and let things take care of itself,” Johnston said. “You can control certain things but defensive intensity and rebounding are things that we’ve got to stick with and hopefully the shots fall on offense for us.”

YME 22 17 – 39

Minneota 29 28 – 57

Scoring: Minneota 23-60, 38.3 percent (Sussner 7-13, 1-2 15; Gillingham 4-12, 4-5 12; Kockelman 4-9, 0-0 10; M. Hennen 4-6, 0-0 9; A. Hennen 2-9, 0-0 5; Rolbiecki 1-5, 0-0 3; Rost 1-6, 1-2 3); YME 12-43, 27.9 percent (Hinz 4-11, 0-0 11; A. McCosh 4-10, 3-4 11; Dyrdahl 1-9, 6-6 8; Anderson 1-5, 1-2 3; Dahlager 1-4, 0-0 3; Mortenson 1-4, 0-0 3).

Rebounds: Minneota 31 (Sussner 9; A. Hennen 6); YME 19 (Dyrdahl 6; Mortenson 5).

Assists: Minneota 15 (A. Hennen 6); YME 6 (Hinz 3).

Steals: Minneota 9 (Kockelman, Rost, Sussner 2); YME 1 (A. McCosh).

Blocks: Minneota 4 (Sussner 3; Rost 1); YME 1 (Dyrdahl).

Fouls: Minneota 12; YME 7.