MARSHALL - For the first 18 minutes on Tuesday night, the No. 6 seed Ortonville girls' basketball team gave No. 2 seed Dawson-Boyd just about all it could handle.
The Trojans had advanced to the Section 3A-North semifinals at the R/A Facility on the campus of Southwest Minnesota State University with an upset of No. 3 seed Canby on Saturday and the confidence showed as they matched the Blackjacks step for step in the first half.
Thankfully for Dawson-Boyd, an impressive second half from guards Justine Lee and Katarina Kuhlmann sparked the Blackjacks to a 68-51 win.
"That's the way we have been all year; our basketball season has been a tale of two halves," Dawson-Boyd head coach Randy Haakenson said. "One of our halves is always a bit sluggish and the other one we come out and play. This is the time of year when you have to play two good halves.
"I'm going to give Ortonville credit," Haakenson added. "In the first half they were the ones who were the aggressors and probably out-played us."
A 6-0 run for Dawson-Boyd lasting two minutes proved the difference in the opening half, as the Blackjacks took a 16-10 lead with nine minutes, 22 seconds to play on a Justine Flattum jumper.
Brenna Giese 8 6-9 22, Jenae Schneider 1 0-0 2, Michaela Radermacher 0 1-2 1, Morgan Messmer 3 2-2 10, Shelby Strei 2 0-2 4, Camille Scholberg 5 2-2 12. Totals 19 11-17 51. 3-pointers 2 (Messmer 2) Rebounds 23 (Scholberg 8) Assists 16 (Amanda Goergen 4) Steals 6 (Giese 3) Blocks 0 Turnovers 33 Total Fouls 15.
Justine Flattum 3 0-0 6, Mari Lee 5 1-2 11, Sadie Zaiser 2 0-2 4, Nicole Jurgenson 1 0-1 2, Justine Lee 7 7-7 24, Katarina Kuhlmann 8 2-6 19, Kelly Husby 1 0-0 2. Totals 27 10-18 68. 3-pointers 4 (J. Lee 3) Rebounds 28 (M. Lee 8, Husby 7, J. Lee 6) Assists 22 (J. Lee 9, Kuhlmann 4) Steals 17 (J. Lee 6, M. Lee 3) Blocks 0 Turnovers 19 Total Fouls 18.
Halftime Score: Dawson-Boyd 30, Ortonville 26
Ortonville answered with a small run of its own and played back and forth with the Blackjacks until the Trojan's Shelby Strei coaxed in a layup at the buzzer to send her team into the locker room down four at 30-26.
Dawson-Boyd often looked hesitant on the offensive end, while Ortonville was assertive to start.
"That's probably been one of our problems all year long is that we don't play with a lot of intensity always," Haakenson said. "And that's one of my biggest fears. I believe that you have to do everything with passion and we're not always passionate.
"Ortonville's been playing well as of late and they have several ball players that I knew could compete with just about any basketball team, by virtue of the fact that they defeated Canby," Haakenson added. "I know that they came out and they were ready to play."
The Blackjacks regrouped during the break and looked like a different team in the second half, as Lee and Kuhlmann attacked the basket when lanes opened up and shot the ball when unguarded.
Lee finished with a game-high 24 points, while Kuhlmann was right behind her with 19. Lee also added six rebounds, nine assists and six steals. One of her three 3-pointers capped off a 12-3 run for the Blackjacks to open the second half, as Dawson-Boyd took a 42-29 lead.
Ortonville cut the Blackjack lead under 10 points on just two more occasions in the game and were unable to keep pace after halftime, despite receiving 16 of Brenna Giese's team-high 22 points in the second half. Six-foot-2 center Camille Scholberg chipped in for the Trojans with 12 points and eight assists.
The Blackjacks also benefitted from 33 Ortonville turnovers via a variety of full-court pressure and aggressive half-court defense.
"What we tried to do was deny Giese the basketball," Haakenson said. "We thought if we could keep the ball out of her hands we could be a little bit more effective. I think as long as she didn't handle the ball they were a little less effective."
Mari Lee added 11 points and eight rebounds to the winning effort, which set up a third meeting between the Blackjacks and Minneota Vikings for the season.
Minneota got the better of Dawson-Boyd in the two prior matchups but Haakenson knows where his team needs to improve if it is going to advance past the sub-section championship, slated for an 8 p.m. tip-off at the R/A Facility on Friday.
"We were out-rebounded by Minneota in our last game at our place 44-21," he said. "We certainly have to do a better job on the boards. One of my concerns from the very beginning of the year was our lack of physicality. Minneota, of course, is the quintessential physical team, so we're going to have to get in there and battle and rebound if we're going to have a chance to win."