SLEEPY EYE - Standing at 6-foot tall, Becca Schmitz is no stranger to the high-percentage shots close to the basket.
On a night of anxious jump shots and an 11-of-27 stand at the free-throw line, Schmitz favored the short-range buckets for 12 of her 18 points in leading Sleepy Eye St. Mary's to a 52-49 nonconference victory against Sibley East on Monday night.
"We try to emphasize our inside game as well and we had a lot of opportunities there," said St. Mary's coach Bruce Woitas. "Becca came up big for us there in the second half. Overall, our inside game is going to have to be consistent for us as we progress through our year."
Schmitz's 18 points were a game high, while also adding five rebounds. Sabrina Portner notched a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds off the bench for the Knights (2-2, 0-1 Tomahawk).
The Wolverines (1-1, 0-0 Minnesota River) clinged to a five-point lead late in the first half, but an 8-2 run by the Knights gave themselves a 25-24 lead heading into locker room.
"It really is, because then the second half we come out pumped up, ready to go," Schmitz said when asked of the importance of having momentum at halftime. "We knew we could do it then, that we could stay with them."
For most of the game, Schmitz battled 6-foot-1 McKenzie Sommers, who led Sibley East with 16 points after leading all scorers with eight by the end of the first half. Sommers was no stranger to the high-percentage inside shot either, shooting 8-for-12 from the field.
"I thought she played really strongly on the offensive side of the ball," said Sibley East coach Todd Warzecha of Sommers. "There's still some things that, as a new coach, I'm tweaking with her on the defensive side of the ball, but she'll improve as the year goes on and be a dominant force for us."
Sibley East jumped out to a 47-40 lead thanks to a 3-pointer by Katie Tuchtenhagen with less than five minutes remaining, but St. Mary's went on an 8-0 run to regain the lead at the 1:47 mark.
Sommers gave the Wolverines a 49-48 lead with less than one minute remaining, but
Larissa Helget stole it away for St. Mary's with a layup off a fast break at the 0:41 mark. Sibley East's 15th team foul of the half sent Schmitz to the free-throw line, where she knocked down both shots to put St. Mary's up 52-49.
Despite two missed free throws by Nikki Carr, who finished with five points and seven steals, a double dribble by Kelli Martens gave St. Mary's the ball with 0:03 on the clock.
From there, Carr received the inbounds pass and avoided contact to give St. Mary's the nonconference win.
"We played too tight at the end," Warzecha said. "We had an opportunity to close the door being ahead by eight with four minutes left and we just kind of got nervous, made some bad passes."
Sibley East returns home next to face Nicollet, while St. Mary's will host Red Rock Central. Both games are slated to tip at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday.
"They're very important anytime you can get a 'W,'" Woitas said of winning nonconference games. "We're somewhat of a new make-up team this year and hopefully we can just continue to improve each time that we play."
Sibley East 24 25 - 49
S.E. St. Mary's 25 27 - 52
Sibley East: McKenzie Sommers (16 pts, 8-12), Kelli Martens (8 pts, 4-5), Katie Tuchtenhagen (6 pts, 2-5), Jessica Garza (5 pts, 2-6)
S.E. St. Mary's: Becca Schmitz (18 pts, 6-13, 6-9 FT), Sabrina Portner (10 pts, 5-12, 0-6 FT), Larissa Helget (9 pts, 4-11), Nikki Carr (5 pts, 2-11, 1-4 FT)