PREP GIRLS BASKETBALL: Strong defense carries Tigers past Cardinals, 59-41

Photo by Jake Przytarski Marshall’s Paige Andries shoots a jumper during their game against Luverne on Tuesday. The Tigers defeated the Cardinals 59-41.

MARSHALL – A well-executed press takes speed and anticipation. Thankfully for the Tigers, speedsters Kaia Sueker and Lenei Estrada possess both qualities in spades.

Led by a swarming effort by the tandem of guards, the Marshall girls basketball team put on a defensive clinic in Tuesday night’s 59-41 win over Luverne, including holding the visiting Cardinals to only 17 points in the second half.

The Tigers, who led by only eight heading into halftime, amped up the pressure in the second half leading to multiple scoring runs. Marshall coach Dan Westby identified the sequence as key to their victory on Tuesday.

“I thought we created some turnovers with our pressure,” said Westby. “That was part of that push we made midway through the second half, but yeah it was a hard-fought game. We had to get a little bit creative in some of the things we were doing, but to our kids’ credit I thought we really battled and stuck with it.”

WIth the bulk of the defensive turnovers being created by Estrada and Sueker, Westby acknowledges the luxury of having an elite level of speed on the court, but at times needs to rein them in to avoid foul trouble.

“Those two kids are pretty disruptive,” said Westby. “The issue we have sometimes is trying to keep them out of foul trouble. I think that stems from the fact that they’re a little bit overly aggressive at times.”

The aggressiveness described by Westby was equally apparent in the play of Emily Meier early on in the contest as she made her presence felt offensively with five of the team’s first eight points to give the Tigers an 8-5 lead. The sophomore would finish the half with a team-high 12 points.

According to Westby, Meier’s ability to gain position inside played a large role in her breakout performance.

“I thought Emily really did a nice job of sealing hard inside and gaining position,” said Westby. “Offensively this is one of her better games this season, so it’s good to see that kind of production from her.”

Finding their own success offensively, the Cardinals kept pace with the Tigers and traded leads midway through before Marshall dug in once more and rallied with a 10-3 run before the half to carry a 32-24 lead into the break.

Looking to push their lead into double digits upon returning for the second half, the Tigers opened up play with three unanswered buckets from Jordyn Hilgemann, Sueker and Meier to make it 39-24.

With the defense complimenting the offense with fast break points and open look threes down the stretch, the Tigers took their largest lead of the game up until that point with the score 52-35.

Unable to mount any sort of comeback with Marshall continuing to dial up the full-court pressure, the Tigers picked up a crucial Big South Conference victory by a final score of 59-41.

The Tigers were led in scoring by Meier, who finished with a double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds. Sueker finished the night with 12 points – all of which coming from behind the arc on 4 of 7 shooting from three. Estrada finished with a team-high seven assists to go along with seven points and a pair of steals. Hilgemann led all Tigers in steals with five and ended the night with five points.

Back in action on Friday to take on another Big South opponent in Pipestone Area at 7:15 p.m., Westby is hoping to clean some things up prior to their matchup with the Arrows.

“We’ve got a tough week this week. We go to Pipestone on Friday and then we go to Mankato East on Saturday,” said Westby. “We’re going to have to shore up some things and be ready to go.”