SLEEPY EYE - After a tense battle that went down to the wire, senior Claire Krumbach hit one of the biggest free throws of her life when her team needed her to.
Despite having hit 1-of-9 free throws up until that point, the five-year varsity starter scored the game-winning point in the first of two free throws to give No. 3-seeded Sleepy Eye a 75-74 overtime victory against No. 6-seeded Springfield in the Section 2A North quarterfinals on Monday.
The Indians (16-9, 9-7 Tomahawk) held on despite shooting 6-of-21 at the free-throw line in the second half - a lull that included eight-straight misses.
"We went from being the best free-throw shooting teams in the conference to statistically probably the worst," said Sleepy Eye coach Ryan Hulke. "Credit to the girls - they stuck with it, battled down. Defensively, we weren't so good tonight, but we did enough to win down the stretch."
Krumbach scored four of the Indians' six points in overtime to finish with 19. Justine Gonzalez led all scorers with 20 points.
The Tigers (14-12, 10-6) battled back from being down by as much as 14 points in the first half to close the gap to six by halftime. Leading the way for them was senior Therese Roiger, who finished with a team-high 18 points from the inside.
"She played very well, played strong," said Springfield coach Paul Arnoldi. "She had the task of guarding [Josie] Schieffert on the inside and did some great things for us on the offensive end too."
Behind Roiger, Springfield also had three players with 14 points each - Joeli Arnoldi, Sonja Fiedler and Vishe Rabb.
Rabb, the only freshman on Springfield's varsity roster, got hot in the second half, draining two 3-pointers and an inside jumper to finish shooting 5-of-10 in regulation.
"She came up at the end of the year, played B-squad and about the last six-to-eight games she came up," Arnoldi said of Rabb. "She's a very talented kid and made some big baskets tonight and played very well for us."
Even though Rabb provided Springfield with a sharp-shooting threat down the stretch, Sleepy Eye one-upped its opponent with eighth-grader Madison Heiderscheidt.
After netting five points on 2-of-3 shooting in the first half, Heiderscheidt went off in the second with 10 points on 3-of-5 shooting to finish with 15.
"Maddy Heiderscheidt was outstanding for us," Hulke said. "She's an eighth-grader playing in the biggest game of her life and she was outstanding tonight. So much, much credit to her."
Springfield caught a big break with less than a minute to go in regulation. After hitting a 3 to put Sleepy Eye up 67-66, Heiderscheidt stole the ball and was supposedly fouled near the basket in the process of converting a layup for a potential three-point play. However, the opposite ref first called a foul on Arnoldi as Heiderscheidt was in the act of stripping her of the ball on the Tigers' end of the court, negating the chance for a three-point play.
Since the Tigers were in the double bonus, Heiderscheidt still had an opportunity to put her team up by three, but missed both free throws to keep the score at 67-66.
Splotches of free throws here and there gave Sleepy Eye a 69-67 lead with roughly 15 seconds to go, but Fiedler received the ball right after that mark hit the scoreboard and jetted down the court to net the game-tying layup with 05.4 seconds remaining, eventually sending it to overtime.
It was there where Krumbach came through for the Indians with a 2-of-4 stand at the free-throw line as well as a basket late in period.
"I thought we played our best basketball down the road here, which is always what you want to have," Arnoldi said. "We lose two seniors and we've got a lot of kids gain some valuable experience. Hopefully they can learn something from tonight's game, as tough as that may be."
Sleepy Eye advances to the Section 2A North semifinals, where it will play No. 2-seeded Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity in the latter game of the night. Tipoff is at 8 p.m. on Thursday at Mankato West, immediately following the game between No. 4-seed Cedar Mountain/Comfrey and No. 1-seed Minnesota Valley Lutheran.
Springfield 33 36 5 - 74
Sleepy Eye 39 30 6 - 75
Arnoldi 5-14 2-2 14, Fiedler 6-14 1-4 14, Davis 2-6 1-2 6, Milbrath 3-8 1-2 6, Roiger 5-14 8-10 18, Thoreson 0-0 0-0 0, Fenger 1-1 0-2 2, Rabb 5-11 1-2 14.
SLEEPY EYE (75)
Gonzalez 6-17 5-8 20, S Ibarra 2-4 0-2 4, Ahlrich 4-8 0-0 9, Krumbach 8-13 2-11 19, Schieffert 3-6 2-4 8, Heiderscheidt 5-11 4-7 15, Seifert 0-1 0-2 0, Hillmer 0-2 0-0 0.