MANKATO - The Minnesota Valley Lutheran girl's basketball team knows that in order to make a deep run in the playoffs this year, Anna Munsen is going to be a big reason why.
And while Munsen will be the focal point of opposing defenses, other players will have to step up and provide some big baskets too.
On Thursday, the Chargers met Tomahawk Conference foe Cedar Mountain/Comfrey in the Section 2A, North Subsection semifinals. While the Cougars surprised the Chargers with a 2-3 zone early on and jumped out to an 11-2 lead, the Chargers fought back and won 56-38, moving on to the subsection championship at 6 p.m. Monday at Gustavus Adolphus College.
The loss ends CM/C's season at 14-9 while MVL improves to 17-8.
Munsen was her usual self, leading all scorers with 20 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks. She was almost unstoppable in the second half as the Chargers dumped the ball inside to her. Not to be outdone, teammate Nicole Moldstad finished with 16 points and seven rebounds.
The game was another big one between the two schools who have built a pretty good rivalry over the last few years in girl's basketball.
"Over the last bunch of years, we've had some big battles with Cedar Mountain and at this level, the playoff level, the last few years," MVL coach Dave Biedenbender said. "We always know that they're going to give us their best effort and [CM/C coach Mike Kelly] Mike always has them prepared and we know that we better be ready for something different."
The Chargers, who earned the No. 1 seed in the North Subsection, had a tough time with CM/C's defense and it showed early as the Cougars cruised to the early lead. A basket by Karliana Kelly made it 8-2 for the Cougars, forcing an MVL timeout. The Cougars followed with a 3-pointer to go up 11-2 with 12:45 left in the first half.
"At that time, I think we did get a little nervous, but we kept it together and we knew that we beat them before and we could continue on and come back and win," Moldstad said.
The teams split the during the regular season so both knew that anything could happen. Following the early run by the Cougars, the Chargers settled somewhat and cut into the lead. A 3-pointer by Moldstad trimmed CM/C's lead to 15-12 and a pair of free throws later by Munsen gave the Chargers their first lead at 18-17.
Courtney Nelsen managed to give the Cougars the lead one last time after she hit a basket and later a free throw to put her team up 22-20. Nelsen led the Cougars with nine points and Brianna Lund scored eight points.
The Chargers finished the half strong, finishing on a 9-0 run, including a big basket by Moldstad just before the buzzer sounded to put MVL up 29-22 at the break.
At that point, it was all MVL as the Chargers had gained the momentum.
"I came into the locker room and at that point I told my other coaches that it may only be two points, but it was a big shot in the arm there," Biedenbender said of Moldstad's basket. "It went from five points to seven and I told the girls that it was big for us."
While the Chargers did get some big 3-pointers in the first half to stretch out the CM/C defense, Munsen's play was big in the second half.
"It really helps us out knowing that she's a big strong player down there and we always have the option to get it in there and she'll always take it up strong," Moldstad said.
The Chargers meet Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity for the North Subsection championship on Monday. LP/HT defeated Sleepy Eye 85-67 to move on.