CLASS AAA GIRLS BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT: Last-second loss

Tigers fall to No. 3 Becker, 68-67, in back-and-forth battle; face Austin today at 4 p.m. in consolation semifinals

Photo by Sam Thiel Marshall's Kaia Sueker drives into the lane during their Class AAA quarterfinal game against No. 3 Becker on Wednesday at Maturi Pavilion at the University of Minnesota. The Becker Bulldogs defeated the Marshall Tigers 68-67.

MINNEAPOLIS — The Marshall girls basketball team had to dig deep on multiple occasions during their Class AAA quarterfinal game against No. 3 Becker on Wednesday. Battling back from a halftime and double-digit deficit down the stretch, the Tigers were able to take things into the final seconds, but a last-second shot by the Bulldogs would end up propelling Becker to a 68-67 victory over Marshall at the Maturi Pavilion at the University of Minnesota.

Becker looked to put the game out of reach with a double-digit advantage in the second half, but Marshall showed its poise and refused to go away. Highlighted by a 3-point barrage from both Jordyn Hilgemann and Kaia Sueker in a short span, the Tigers turned an eight-point deficit into a tied game at 59-59 with 2:43 left before Hilgemann got a layup to go to give Marshall the lead back.

After an ensuing layup by the Bulldogs, the Tigers earned trips to the free-throw line, where shots from Sueker and Corrin Naughton put Marshall ahead at 63-61 with 1:12 remaining. Becker would go down and connect on a 3-pointer to take a one-point lead, but Hilgemann would be fouled and make a pair of free throws to regain the lead for Marshall. The Tigers defense got a key charge on the ensuing possession, before another free throw on the other end put Marshall up 66-64 with under 40 seconds to play. The two teams then would trade free throws on their next possessions, putting Marshall up 67-65 with 10 seconds left.

In need of a score, the Bulldogs raced down the floor and would find Courtney Nuest on the left wing. The sophomore guard would rise up and connect on the 3-pointer with less than three seconds remaining, putting Becker back up by one and ultimately into the semifinals.

Despite the tough finish, Marshall coach Dan Westby was extremely proud of the way his team continued to battle throughout the game, especially in the second half.

“I couldn’t be prouder of our kids’ effort there,” Westby said. “We got down 11 or 12 points and just battled back; we kind of went away from our pressure there for a while and then came back to it at the end and really were disruptive again, a lot like we were at the start of the game. But just a great effort by our kids coming back.”

Strong start

turns tight

The Tigers knew they needed to make an early statement against the Bulldogs, and the first few minutes went all in Marshall’s favor. The Tigers came out red-hot, scoring the first 13 points of the game highlighted by a pair of 3-pointers from Sueker and layups from Emily Meier and Hilgemann. Marshall’s pressure on defense was also an early storyline, with the Tigers holding Becker without a field goal for nearly the first six minutes of the game.

Sueker said their key in the opening minutes was their ability to move the ball well and use their press to create transition opportunities.

“I thought we moved the ball really well,” Sueker said. Also, on defense our press, I thought we kind of got them off-guard and we worked really well. I think that’s what helped us out in the beginning.”

The Tigers would remain focused on both ends of the floor and would build their largest lead of the first half at 19-3 with 10:27 left in the first half.

In addition to their solid play on both ends of the floor to start, Sueker added they wanted to use the “underdog” mentality against Becker to come out strong.

“I think that was just our motivation,” Sueker said. “Being the underdog, we wanted to come out really strong and prove them wrong.”

Despite the suddenly increasing deficit in front of them, Becker continued to play its own game, getting a layup before a 3-pointer and another jumper quickly brought the Bulldogs to within seven at 19-12 with 7:28 left in the first half. Becker was able to continue to capitalize on both ends of the floor, drawing to within three before back-to-back 3-pointers from Nuest gave the Bulldogs their first lead of the day at 24-23 with 2:03 to go in the first. Another jumper from Nuest extended Becker’s advantage to 26-23 going into halftime, capping off a huge 23-4 run in the final 10:27 of the first half.

Second-half

resiliency

Looking to continue its strong finish from the first half, Becker would take a 34-27 lead in the opening minutes of the second frame, but a layup from Sueker brought Marshall back to within two with 13:45 left.

The Bulldogs would have an answer, however, going on a 9-2 run in less than two minutes thanks to 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions to give Becker a 44-35 lead with 10:54 left before another jumper made it a double-digit advantage. The Bulldogs would maintain at least an eight-point lead throughout the next several minutes, including taking their largest advantage of the afternoon at 56-42 with 6:59 left, but the Tigers countered with a 6-0 run of their own to set the stage for the back-and-forth play down the stretch.

Hilgemann led the way for the Tigers with 26 points while Meier added 18 and Sueker had 14. Paige Andries led in rebounds with nine while Meier led in assists with four.

Nuest led the way for Becker with 18 points while Julia Bengtson added 15, Adeline Kent had 13 and Megan Gamble had 11.

Marshall will now face Austin in the consolation semifinals today at 4 p.m. at Concordia-St. Paul. Despite the loss to start off their state tournament quest, Hilgemann said they still have a lot to play for and need to bounce back today.

“Even though we lost, I think we’re still here for a reason,” Hilgemann said. “We have a quick turnaround and we have to be ready to go today. We’re not done yet, so we want to come out going away with something.”

No. 3 Becker 68, Marshall 67

Marshall 23 44 – 67

Becker 26 42 – 68

SCORING: Marshall (Hilgemann 7-17, 9-13, 26; Meier 8-11, 2-3 18; Sueker 4-6, 3-5 14; Andries 2-5, 0-1 4; Naughton 0-5, 3-6 3; Estrada 1-1, 0-0 2).

REBOUNDS: Marshall 33 (Andries 9; Hilgemann 6; Naughton, Wendorff 5).

ASSISTS: Marshall 10 (Meier 4; Sueker 3; Andries, Jones, Wendorff 1).

STEALS: Marshall 14 (Hilgemann 5; Sueker 3; Naughton, Jones 2; Estrada, Meier 1).

BLOCKS: Marshall 2 (Andries, Naughton 1).

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