SLEEPY EYE - A dramatic finish unfurled in a highly intense bout between crosstown rivals - one trying to stay alive in the Tomahawk Conference race, the other looking for revenge.
On Thursday night, the latter of the two prevailed as Sleepy Eye St. Mary's defeated Sleepy Eye 51-50 - avenging an earlier 17-point loss from Dec. 12.
"Last game our shots just did not drop and we knew we needed to pick it up," said St. Mary's senior Deonna Brinkman. "We had a lot more energy coming into it since the big loss last time."
Staff photo by Steve Muscatello
Sleepy Eye’s Claire Krumbach attempts to block a shot from Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s Nikki Carr (5) during the first half Thursday at SESM.
For more photos of this event go to cu.nujournal.com
The Knights (7-9, 4-6 Tomahawk) won despite converting 29 percent (9-of-31) of their free throws.
When asked how is team played, Sleepy Eye coach Ryan Hulke simply said "terrible."
"We were nowhere to be found mentally," Hulke said. "We made adjustments throughout the game, we made adjustments at halftime that were nonexistent for us. There were things we needed to take away that we apparently didn't want to do.
"I wasn't pleased with our mental state tonight knowing where we want to be."
The Indians (9-9, 4-7) fell behind early but kept it close with the Knights throughout most of the first half.
A jumper by Justine Gonzalez pulled the Indians to within two points at 23-21, but the Knights finished the half on a 10-2 run that was capped off with a 3-pointer by Laura Pelzel.
However, Sleepy Eye came out of the half firing on all cylinders, mounting a 10-2 run of its own to narrow the gap to 35-33 before St. Mary's coach Bruce Woitas took a 30-second timeout.
A basket by eighth-grader Madison Heiderscheidt tied the game 35-35 before a 1-for-2 free-throw stand by Josie Schieffert gave the Indians their first lead of the night.
"We just rebounded, actually," Hulke said of the second-half spurt. "We played good defense - they shot, we rebounded."
A layup by Brinkman was the only score in 15 attempts for St. Mary's during the first split of the second half.
"We got inconsistent offensively in the second half," Woitas said. "It was kind of like nobody wanted to win that game down the stretch."
Following a jumper by Becca Schmitz that gave St. Mary's a 37-36 advantage, the lead changed six times between the two during the final leg of the second half.
Brinkman said the Knights' victory was thanks to their ability to outhustle the Indians during the final stretch.
"We have girls like Nikki [Carr], Larissa [Helget] and Jamie [Marti] who can easily get past their defenders," Brinkman said. "We knew we're a faster team and with them we could get around [defenders] and that really helped this time."
Heiderscheidt gave the Indians a 50-49 lead after hitting 1-of-2 free throws, but a basket by Sabrina Portner on the other end of the floor accounted for the final lead change and a 51-50 score.
The Indians got the ball with 0:33 remaining and a one-point deficit to overcome. A 3-pointer from the corner by McKayla Ahlrich missed and was almost immediately followed by a foul on Helget.
In the double bonus, Helget went to the line but missed both free-throw attempts. Hulke called a timeout with 0:07 remaining to draw up the final play.
Woitas changed the defensive assignment from zone to man, which was just enough to prevent a 3-pointer by Gonzalez from sinking at the buzzer.
"I was actually really surprised they came out in man," Hulke said of the final play. "Either way, we got a ball screen with Justine with the ball in her hands, got a decent look, but it obviously didn't go down. A 3-point look is not what I wanted, but either way she got a good look."
Sleepy Eye will play on Friday at Minnesota Valley Lutheran, while St. Mary's will host Wabasso. Both games are slated for a 7:30 p.m. tipoff.
Sleepy Eye 23 27 - 50
S.E. St. Mary's 33 18 - 51
SLEEPY EYE (50)
Gonzalez 6-14 4-5 16, S Ibarra 1-6 0-0 2, Ahlrich 2-7 0-0 5, Krumbach 3-9 0-0 8, Schieffert 4-8 1-2 9, Heiderscheidt 2-11 2-6 6, Hillmer 1-1 0-0 2, A Ibarra 0-1 2-2 2.
S.E. ST. MARY'S (51)
Marti 3-10 1-2 7, Schmitz 4-14 3-6 11, Carr 5-19 2-4 12, Helget 2-11 3-9 7, Brinkman 1-2 0-2 2, Portner 4-9 1-7 9, Rosenhammer 0-0 0-0 0, Salfer 0-1 0-0 0, Anderson 0-2 0-0 0, L Pelzel 1-4 0-1 3.