Okerman’s clutch 3 lifts Sleepy Eye past BOLD in season opener

Staff photo by Travis Rosenau Sleepy Eye’s Kadence Hesse hits a fadeaway over BOLD’s Mary Ryberg (4) during the Indians’ season-opening game with the Warriors on Friday at the St. Mary’s Invite at Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s High School.

SLEEPY EYE — With Sleepy Eye trailing BOLD 64-62 on Friday night, the Indians’ youngest player ended the night as a hero.

After Kadence Hesse found freshman Cadence Okerman open from beyond the arc, Okerman buried a 3 to give the Indians a 1-point lead with five seconds to play. A pair of bonus free throws by Brooklyn Moldan later gave the Indians key insurance points on the way to a 67-64 win in nonconference girls’ basketball action at Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s High School.

The Indians took the Knights’ home court first on Day 1 of the St. Mary’s Tip-Off Invite, and they ended their season-opening game with much to celebrate.

Okerman saw some minutes off the bench last season as an eighth-grader, but she had a bigger role in Sleepy Eye’s opener with BOLD and finished with 14 points off the bench.

Okerman said that her confidence has grown a lot from last season and the big 3-pointer she hit late was an extra boost.

“It felt really good,” Okerman said of the 3. “Last year, I didn’t have any confidence at all. This year, I came in with a lot of confidence and it showed tonight.”

Hesse finished with 21 points, five rebounds and five steals to lead the Indians.

With the clock ticking away and trailing 64-62, Hesse’s pass to Okerman gave the Indians all the confidence and momentum they needed.

“My first thought was, ‘Is there room for me to squeeze? Otherwise I need to kick this because we don’t have time to mess around,'” Hesse said. “But as soon as I saw that opening to Okerman, I knew that thing had a pretty good chance of being finished.”

After the 3, the Warriors called a timeout with 4.7 seconds left to play. Their inbounds pass was stolen at midcourt, however, before Moldan was fouled and sank two clutch free throws with a second left on the clock. BOLD was unable to get off another shot after that.

Brea Mertz added 15 points, eight rebounds and four blocks for Sleepy Eye, while Kaydince Thoms was the fourth player in double figures for Sleepy Eye with 11 points.

In the first half, Mertz had the first three baskets for Sleepy Eye before Hesse added a free throw and Thoms drained a 3. BOLD led 11-7 at one point before the Indians came back to take a 15-13 lead after a 3 by Okerman.

BOLD took advantage of several Sleepy Eye turnovers in the opening half, leading by as much as 10 in the half and leading 31-23 at halftime.

Sleepy Eye fell behind by as much as 13 in the second half. After several minutes of back-and-forth scoring, Sleepy Eye went on a 9-0 run to trail 50-47.

Mertz opened the run with a bucket inside on an inbounds pass from Hesse, while Hesse hit a 3 and Thoms had a pair of free throws and a fast-break layup to finish the run.

After a finger-roll layup by Thoms tied the game at 53-all, BOLD went on a 7-0 run that was capped off on a 3 by Mari Ryberg to lead 60-53. The Indians got an and-one from Mertz and a bucket by Hesse to trail 62-61 and tied it at 62-all after Hesse hit the back end of two free throws with 50.5 seconds remaining.

BOLD’s final lead came moments later on a bucket inside by 6-foot senior Abigail Meyers. BOLD’s Lainey Braulick was fouled with 13.3 seconds left to bring up one-and-one free throws, but she couldn’t convert at the line and that led to the big 3 by Okerman.

Sleepy Eye (1-0) finishes its time at the St. Mary’s Invite with a 3 p.m. Saturday game against Cleveland.


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