NEW ULM - The Springfield girls basketball team arguably played its best first half of the season while the Minnesota Valley Lutheran Chargers may have played their worst on Friday night.
In the second half, however, MVL came back from an 18-point halftime deficit to pull within two points after holding Springfield scoreless for over eight and a half minutes.
In the end, it was the 8-8 Tigers holding on and upsetting the 16-1 Chargers 59-54 in Tomahawk Conference action.
Staff photo by Steve Muscatello
Springfield’s Joeli Arnoldi (3) launches a 3-point shot as Larissa DeRousse of Minnesota Valley Lutheran defends on the play during the second half Friday at MVL.
Springfield's Jordan Salonek led all scorers with 17 points while teammate Joeli Arnoldi scored 13.
Mariah Schoof paced MVL with 12 points, four rebounds, four assists and four blocks. Anna Munsen and Sarah Burk each scored 10 points and had seven rebounds while Alexa Alfred finished with nine points and seven rebounds.
The Chargers went into the contest with a perfect 10-0 record in the conference this season, but it certainly didn't appear that MVL was the powerhouse of the conference, much less a winning ball club.
Springfield stuck it to the Chargers early in the game and found itself up 16-7 midway through the first half. Schoof's bucket with just under seven minutes remaining put the Chargers in double-digits, while more MVL turnovers and a huge 3-pointer by Arnoldi silenced the crowd, giving the Tigers a commanding 29-15 lead.
Springfield increased that lead to 40-20 before the Chargers tacked on two more heading into the break.
"Our kids' energy kind of played off our defense," Springfield coach Paul Arnoldi said. "I thought our half-court defense played outstanding. Our post players played physical, our guards pressured the ball well and we did things well in transition. I think the kids were just confident in shooting the ball and shooting in rhythm."
Neither team could get by each other in the opening minutes of the second half and with 10:30 remaining in the game Springfield held a 51-32 lead.
That's when the Chargers started to play ball.
MVL played stellar defense and didn't even allow Springfield to get a half-way decent shot for eight and a half minutes. In that time the Chargers went on a 16-0 run and Schoof's signature floater slashed the deficit to just three points with 1:59 remaining. Salonek finally ended the devastating drought with two free throws, making it a two-possession game.
Schoof hit two free throws with 1:30 remaining to pull within two points, however, a cold-blooded 3-pointer from Arnoldi with 55 seconds left took the air out of the gym and ended all chance for a miraculous comeback for the home team.
"I told [the team] we couldn't play much worse than we did in the first half," MVL head coach Dave Biedenbender said. "We really didn't have the effort, intensity and focus that we needed. At least we could save face by playing a better second half. We made a great comeback and made it exciting towards the end. We can't get 20 points down and expect to win a game."
The Tigers improved to 9-8 overall and 6-5 in the conference with the victory and they will play at Cedar Mountain/Comfrey on Tuesday. The Chargers drop to 16-2 and 10-1 in conference competition and will travel to Fairmont on Monday to take on the Cardinals.