NEW ULM - Once the Rabbits hit the floor running on Tuesday night, even a pack of Greyhounds wasn't enough to catch them.
In Tuesday's Tomahawk Conference girls' basketball game, the Wabasso Rabbits surged to an early 17-3 lead, after which they never looked back in a 54-24 win against the New Ulm Cathedral Greyhounds.
Wabasso head coach Neil Dolan was impressed with the way his team established the tempo of the contest right out of the gate in spite of the Greyhounds' home-court advantage.
Staff photo by Steve Muscatello
New Ulm Cathedral’s Kristin Mohr (31) takes a shot as Karlee Eichten (11) of Wabasso defends on the play during the first half Tuesday at CHS.
"I think we've done that in the last three games, where we've gotten quick starts," Dolan said. "I talked about that to start this game, because this is a difficult place to play - we've come over here with good teams and gotten beat, so that start was very important. I think the girls came out focused and probably played their best basketball of the night in the first 10 minutes of the game."
The Rabbits never trailed in the game, building an 8-1 lead after consecutive baskets by Chelsey Guetter. After Desi Kramer followed a Kimberly Frank 3-pointer by stealing the inbounds pass and making a layup, Wabasso held a 15-3 advantage.
It took six minutes until Cathedral scored its first basket from the field when Megan Laraway scored in the paint. Teammate Leah Krzmarzick scored the next basket of the game to cut the deficit to 17-7, but Wabasso entered halftime on a 14-2 run to take a 31-9 lead into the break.
Wabasso never allowed Cathedral to get comfortable on offense, coming out in a full-court press that earned 24 steals in the game. The Greyhounds earned very few clear shots and even had a hard time finding open passing lanes, with the Rabbits swarming around the ball handler on each Cathedral possession.
"That's our game," Dolan said. "We want to apply pressure, want to transition very well, and the girls did execute that. We talked about that at halftime, how well they were pressuring in the full-court press, and in the half-court press as well."
The Greyhounds played strong defense and created a number of turnovers of their own, but Wabasso was able to adjust and never lost control of the game.
"We thought they were going to play man, so when they came out in zone it was kind of a surprise to us," Guetter said. "We just went into our high-low, and passed around until we knew that we'd have an outside shot."
Cathedral's Lisa Helget scored the first basket of the second half to cut Wabasso's lead to 20 points, but that was the closest the Greyhounds got the rest of the way.
Frank led the Rabbits with 15 points, with Guetter adding 14 points and Kacie Rothmeier contributing nine points.
Frank also had a team-high seven steals. Desi Kramer led the team with eight rebounds and also had five points, four assists, five steals and a block.
Cathedral had 10 players enter the scorebook, with Paige Pautzke leading the way with five points. Karlee Pfaff had four points and Laraway finished with three points.
The victory solidified the Rabbits' hold of second place in the conference, bringing their overall record to 14-2 and their conference record to 8-1.
Wabasso and Cathedral spent much of the year tied for second in the conference, but with the added buffer between the teams the Rabbits can now set their sights on catching conference leader Minnesota Valley Lutheran, whom they will host on Feb. 8.
"I think [this win] will set us up good," Guetter said. "Obviously this is a huge win, they were tied second with us in the conference. We've just got to keep building, and hopefully once we get to MVL we'll come out with the win."
Wabasso will next play on Friday when it hosts Sleepy Eye.
Cathedral (9-5, 6-4) will host Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop on Friday.
"We've just got to pull it together and play our game, make some shots," Cathedral head coach Mary Dengerud said.