GLENCOE - The Minnesota Valley Lutheran Chargers fired a depth charge at the Cedar Mountain/Comfrey Cougars Friday night.
MVL won the Section 2A, North girls basketball game 55-45 using the regular list of Chargers strengths such as stifling defense and good free throw shooting. But their ability to use as many as nine players during a game may have made the difference against CM/C.
MVL was up 46-45 with 3:01 to play, but the Cougars had three of their starters, two of them top scorers, stuck on four fouls. Within two minutes, two of them fouled out and the Chargers hit five straight free throws and two uncontested inside buckets to break the game open.
But the victory may be bittersweet. Already down starting senior Martha Johnston to a high ankle sprain, MVL may have lost fellow senior starter Sarah Burk to a knee injury suffered late in the second half.
The opening half featured nine turnovers in the first six minutes with the Chargers holding a 2-1 lead. Midway through the half, MVL was up 10-5, helped by two 3-pointers by Charlotte Pfingsten and a defense that blocked five CM/C shots and completely shut down the Cougars offense.
Halftime showed the Chargers up 20-17, with the stats from the free throw line a portent of the second half. While MVL was 4-for-6, CM/C was just 5-for-12. "I thought we had a good first half, holding the Cougars to just 17 points," Chargers coach Dave Biedenbender said. "We told the team they had to be crazy and intense on defense and for the most part they did a good job."
It looked like MVL might jump out early in the second half after taking a 25-19 game, but they were never able to extend the lead past that point and after a 35-35 tie, the Cougars took their one and only lead, 38-35, after a 3-pointer from Allison Madsen with 7:50 left in the game. But with the Chargers up 43-41 and 5:12 to go, Madsen and fellow offensive leaders Andrea Ochs and Haley Weidman all had four fouls.
With MVL holding on to a tenous 46-45 margin, Ochs fouled out with 2:41 left on the clock. That led to a free throw and uncontested layups and short jumpers from Alexa Alfred and Anna Munsen that opened the margin to 51-45.
CM/C missed a 3-point attempt at the 1:20 mark, and after Madsen exited the court with her fifth foul with 42 seconds left, all that remained was a 18-for-21 stat for MVL from the free throw line, the victory buzzer and a 23-4 record heading into the 2A, North Subsection finals against Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity at 8 p.m. Tuesday night at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter.
For CM/C, the season ends with a 14-11 record. "We had our chances," Cougars coach Mike Kelly said. "We panicked and they didn't. We kind of lost control of our emotions."
Munsen led MVL with 14 points, with Pfingsten, Burk, Alfred and Mariah Schoof all scoring nine. Weidman had 14 for CM/C, while Madsen added 13.