Minnehaha gets last laugh

Mack, AA No. 2 Redhawks rally past Marshall for 62-61 win

Photo by Jake McNeill Marshall guard Reese Drake (left) attempts a layup while being guarded by Minnehaha’s Isa Griefenhagen during the second half of a girls basketball game in Marshall on Thursday night. The Redhawks defeated the Tigers 62-61.

MARSHALL — The No. 6 Marshall girls basketball team couldn’t overcome a late rally from Class AA No. 2 Minnehaha Academy on Thursday night. The Tigers led by as many as 11 points in the second half before Minnehaha stormed ahead and, despite some clutch plays from Reese Drake down the stretch, the Tigers fell 62-61.

With the game slipping away in the final minutes, Reese Drake scored 6 unanswered points for Marshall to make it a 62-61 game with 1:45 to play. Yet, just as the parts started to align for Marshall, they slipped back apart. Drake was called for her fourth foul on a loose ball with under 90 seconds to play and fouled out on a close-out with 29.8 seconds remaining. Marshall still had an opportunity to take the lead on a pair of free throws after Drake fouled out but missed both.

“At that point [during the free throws]… Reese is a good free throw shooter, so that would have been a luxury to have her out on the floor,” Marshall head coach Dan Westby said. “It kind of had us go to plan B and it just didn’t work out for us.”

Drake finished the game as Marshall’s leading scorer with 18 points on 4 of 10 shooting from the field and 9 of 10 shooting from the free-throw line. Her five assists were also a team-high and her seven rebounds trailed only Taleigha Bigler’s eight among Tigers.

The Tigers intentionally fouled Addi Mack with 22.5 seconds to play. She made the first shot on the 1-and-1 but was called for a lane violation, negating the shot and giving Marshall the ball down a point with no shot clock. Angel Hill came up with the clutch steal but Marshall fouled her with 5.4 seconds to play. She missed the front end of the 1-and-1 and Gillingham grabbed the rebound to give Marshall one last opportunity to go for the win. Yet, Marshall called a timeout with 2.4 seconds left, the Redhawks’ pressure was too much for Marshall to overcome and they weren’t able to get a shot off before the buzzer sounded.

The loss is Marshall’s second in a row and fourth in their last five games after dropping twice to No. 4 St. Peter — including a 67-49 loss in the Big South Conference championship game on Tuesday — and once to Sioux Falls Jefferson. Minnehaha, meanwhile, has now won 10 of its last 11 games, including wins over No. 5 Crosby-Ironton and No. 10 Winona. The lone loss in that stretch was to No. 1 Providence Academy, which is responsible for two of the Redhawks’ three losses on the season.

Mack is ranked as the No. 4 recruit in Minnesota for the class of 2025, per Prep Girls Hoops, and she looked the part for most of the game. Her 25 points and six assists were both game-highs. She struggled to shoot from deep, going 1 of 8 from beyond the arc, but shot a perfect 6 of 6 from the charity stripe and 8 of 13 on 2-point attempts. Her play also forced Marshall to adjust out of its usual full-court press defense.

“Five [Mack] is a special player. She’s kind of a one-person press-breaker and that was the case,” Westby said. “She was able to get through pressure on our own and the problem with that happening is that there’s kids open and we just felt like we couldn’t afford to have that happen. We had to back off a little bit for a while and then came back to it at the end of the game and it was effective again.”

Both teams played aggressive defense throughout the game, with the Redhawks holding a 17-19 advantage in the turnover battle. Angel Hill and Mack finished with five and four steals respectively while Reese Drake led Marshall with three steals. Hill and Mack each also blocked a shot in the win.

While Marshall’s bread and butter has been their defensive grit and hustle, Minnehaha brought a new level of physicality to the game. Despite heavy contact at points, as well as two players fouling out, the officials generally let the girls play.

“I don’t know if [the physicality] bothered us so much, having watched them on film a lot, but we didn’t anticipate it was going to be this physical,” Westby said. “I thought our kids kept fighting and just needed a couple more plays at the end. I thought we’d caught a break there at the end when the kid went over the line on the free throw, I thought that was a good thing for us, but we just couldn’t quite get it done.”

Minnehaha finished with a 32-30 advantage on the glass. Angel Hill led the team with 10 rebounds, which gave her a double-double along with 17 points, while Griefenhagen and Mack added another seven and six rebounds respectively.

Coming out of halftime tied at 26-26, Kennedy Drake got the Tigers off to a hot start with a long 3 on Marshall’s first trip down the floor and Morgan Bjella converted on a layup to give Marshall a 5-0 run to start the half. Mack hit a 2-point just in front of the arc to get the Redhawks on the board but Reese Drake responded with a 3-pointer to keep Marshall’s momentum rolling.

Marshall had a distinct advantage in long-range shooting on the night. The Tigers shot 11 of 29 from beyond the arc, good for a 38% clip, while Minnehaha shot 6 of 21, or 29%. Bigler and Gillingham both got all of their points from 3-point range for the Tigers. Bigler made a game-high four of her nine 3-point attempts to finish with 12 points while Gillingham scored 9 points by shooting 3 of 6 from beyond the arc.

“I thought our kids did such a good job of, they were all ready to catch-and-shoot on the 3-point line,” Westby said.

The Tigers went on to extend their lead to as many as 11 points, 39-28, before the Redhawks started to work their way back into the game. A steal from Mack turned into an Angel Hill layup and then Hill came up with a steal of her own to set up a pair of free throws to cut the deficit to 6 points five minutes into the half.

“One of the concerns we had coming out in the second half was that they’ve been a second-half team all season long,” Westby said. “Our kids really responded. We came out and built [an 11-point] lead in the second half and really had things going… We’ve been in that situation before but we just needed to figure out a way to get it done.”

Halla Casavan grabbed her own rebound and capitalized with a pair of second-chance points to interrupt the Minnehaha run but an Angel Hill 3-pointer cut Marshall’s lead down to 5 points. Paige Gillingham came back with a 3 of her own but a Caroline Sonstegard steal turned into a Mimi Blomgren layup to bring the Redhawks within 4 points, 47-43, when Marshall called a timeout with 11:20 to play.

Mack came up with a steal, a layup and a 3-pointer to give the Redhawks a 48-47 lead, their first since there were five minutes left on the clock in the first half.

Bjella drew a foul on a floater attempt to earn the game-tying free throw and Bigler hit a 3-pointer to give Marshall a 51-48 lead. That was as many points as Marshall would lead by for the remainder of the game.

Sinae Hill grabbed an offensive rebound after a missed Minnehaha free throw to put the Redhawks on top, 54-53, and then hit a pair of 3-pointers to give the Redhawks a 5-point lead. While she had just started to find her offensive rhythm with 8 points on consecutive possessions, she fouled out shortly after a pair of Mack free throws gave the Redhawks a 62-55 lead with four minutes to play.

Mack started the game out with a bang for Minnehaha. She came away with a pair of steals and a pair of layups on the Redhawks’ first two defensive possessions of the game to give Minnehaha a 4-0 lead just over 30 seconds into the game.

Reese Drake ended the Tigers’ game-opening drought with a pair of free throws. On the next possession, Angel Hill capitalized off a feed from Mack with a 3-pointer from the top of the key to increase the Redhawks’ lead to 5 points.

Just days after a three-block performance against St. Peter, Bjella made her presence in the interior known early again. She emphatically stuffed Mack at the rim at the 14:30 mark and that defense turned into offense with a Taleigha Bigler 3-pointer. The Tigers got another stop on the Redhawks’ next possession and Reese Graven found Bigler just outside the restricted area for the tying basket at 7-7.

Mack responded with the game-tying free throws for Minnehaha and Angel Hill drove to the rim to give the Redhawks an 11-7 lead again.

Gillingham responded with a corner 3 off a feed from Bigler to bring Marshall back within a point. From there, Bjella came up with a steal and, after getting the ball back in the halfcourt, passed it to Reese Drake as she cut to the Basket to give Marshall its first lead of the game, 12-11.

The teams continued to stay neck-and-neck as Isa Griefenhagen responded with a go-ahead bucket for Minnehaha and Reese Drake was fouled after grabbing an offensive rebound to get the game-tying free throw. Drake came up with a steal and, on the 2-on-2 fast break, dished it to Kyah Pinckney for another go-ahead layup but Hill came back with a 3-pointer from the wing to give the Redhawks a 16-15 lead with 5:45 to play in the first half.

With under five minutes to play before halftime, Marshall started to go on a run. Bigler grabbed her own rebound, kicked it out to Drake and Drake penetrated and finished to give Marshall a 17-16 lead, prompting the Redhawks to call their first timeout.

Bigler scored the first points after the timeout with a 3 from the top of the key and, after Griefenhagen converted a putback layup, Drake drove into the paint, drew in the defense and kicked it out to Pinckney on the wing for a 3-pointer. Bigler hit another 3 on the next possession to give Marshall a 26-18 lead, its largest of the half, with two-and-a-half minutes to play.

Any momentum Marshall looked like it was going to carry into the break quickly evaporated over the last two minutes Mack started the run after knocking down a pair of free throws and, after a steal, Amina Allen hit Hill with an outlet pass for an easy layup to cut the deficit to 4 points. Mack then hit a pair of transition layups, the latter of which came off a steal from Hill, to tie the game up at 26-26 with under a minute to play. Hill also forced a jump ball with 23 seconds to play to give the Redhawks an opportunity to go into halftime with the lead but Minnehaha was called for a travel and Marshall couldn’t respond offensively, sending the teams into the locker room all tied up.

“[Mack] can create her own shots. She’s as good a player as we’ve seen this season. I thought in the first half, we had that 6-point cushion right before the half and they made three very good defensive plays in a row and turned them into layups to tie it up,” Westby said.

Marshall falls to 19-8 with the loss and will now await its seeding for the section tournament, which will be determined today at 8 a.m. Westby said he expects St. Peter to claim the top seed and the lone first-round bye in the seven-team section but he hopes that Marshall will be among the other top three seeds that get home-court advantage for the quarterfinals.

“This group has — all season long, regardless of the outcome of games — has come out and practiced hard the next day. I would anticipate tomorrow would be more of the same,” Westby said. “When you have a team like that that’s willing to keep their head up and keep working hard, you’ve always got a chance.”


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