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Vikings hold off Indians at SMSU

Photo by Jake McNeill/Marshall Independent Sleepy Eye’s Kadence Hesse dribbles the ball during a nonconference girls basketball game with Minneota on Thursday night at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall.

By Jake McNeill

Marshall Independent Sports Editor

MARSHALL — After falling shy in each of the last two seasons, the Minneota girls basketball team was able to get over the hump against Sleepy Eye at the Holiday Classic on Thursday night. The Vikings built up an early lead and rode the momentum to a 56-53 win at Southwest Minnesota State University.

Faith Myhre opened the second half for Minneota with a long 2-pointer and Grace Hennen sent a long pass from behind halfcourt to Myhre on the next possession for an easy layup. Dakoda Hennen then fought through contact for an and-1 to give Minneota a quick 7 unanswered points and a 41-23 lead to start the half.

Once again, Kadence Hesse was the run-breaker by coming off a screen for a bucket to cut the Vikings’ lead to 13 points. Yet, Grace Hennen stole the ball on the following possession to set up a Kenadi Arndt layup and bring the lead right back to 15 points.

From there, Sleepy Eye started to cut into the Minneota lead. Brissa Hernandez hit one layup and Hesse hit another two to cut the lead down to single digits, 43-34. The teams continued to battle until a 3-pointer from Breaunna Mertz and a shot from Samantha Price made it a one-possession game at 46-43.

Hesse drew a blocking foul on a transition layup and the ball found the bottom of the net on both the shot and the free throw to tie the game with under five minutes to play.

Grace Hennen put the Vikings back on top with a free throw but Cadence Okerman proceeded to give Sleepy Eye its first lead of the game with a 3-pointer on the next possession.

Unfazed by the pressure, Myhre knocked down a hook shot while rolling to her right side and knocked down the and-1 free throw to give the Vikings a 50-49 lead.

Okerman and Myhre exchanged buckets to make Minneota’s lead 52-51 with two minutes remaining and Arndt came up with a clutch steal on the perimeter to set up the Vikings’ transition offense. She passed the ball up to Grace Hennen, who drew a foul in the paint and knocked down both shots at the line to give the Vikings a 3-point lead with 90 seconds remaining.

After leading Minneota with 18 points against St. Clair on Wednesday, Myhre finished tied with Grace Hennen as the Vikings’ second-leading scorer on Thursday with 13 points. Myhre shot 6-of-15 from the field while Grace Hennen shot 3-of-8 from the field and knocked down seven of her nine free-throw attempts to cut help Minneota to a 13-5 advantage fro the charity stripe. Dakoda Hennen finished as the team’s leading scorer with 14 points on 5-of-13 shooting.

After about a minute-long stalemate, Arndt came up with another clutch deflection, this time in the post, to get the ball to Grace Hennen. Sleepy Eye elected to foul Hennen and she, once again, knocked down both shots at the charity stripe to give the VIkings a 5-point cushion.

Hesse knocked down a turnaround jumper in the post to make it a one-possession game with seven seconds left.

Minneota called a timeout before inbounding the ball from the baseline to talk things over. Sleepy Eye put forward a stifling full court press but, after surveying the court and not finding anyone open, Myhre was able to find a streaking Grace Hennen with an outlet pass. Hennen had the presence of mind to try to run out the clock instead of taking the open layup. She missed the front end of the 1-and-1 but, with just four seconds remaining and no timeouts, all the Indians could muster was an errant halfcourt heave and the Vikings held on for the win.

Myhre scored for the Vikings on the first possession of the game and Grace Hennen made a hustle play on the following defensive possession to force a tie-up. While the Indians did get a putback layup on the possession, one free throw from Kiersyn Hulzebos and another two from Dakoda Hennen quickly put the Vikings back on top.

A steal from Arndt set up Grace Hennen with a transition layup and, after another Viking basket, Hesse hit a jumper from the free throw line put an end to Minneota’s 7-0 run. Still, Dakoda Hennen hit a 3-pointer and a layup off a dish from Myhre on the wing to extend Minneota’s lead to double figures.

Hesse again interrupted the Minneota run with a steal on the full-court press and stepped through the defense for a layup to cut the lead back to single digits.

All night long, Hesse was a difficult force for the Vikings to contain. She scored a game-high 24 points for the Indians on 11-of-25 shooting. Beyond just her contributions as a scorer, her seven rebounds were second to Breaunna Mertz’s 13 among Sleepy Eye players. Her four steals also trailed only Mertz’s six for a game-high. The duo’s steals, along with Price’s three, helped the Indians to a 21-23 advantage in the turnover battle.

As a team, Minneota held a 34-29 advantage on the glass. Arndt led the team with nine rebounds while Grace Hennen grabbed another eight. Arndt was also the game’s leading passer with four assists. Hulzebos added another three while Mertz led Sleepy Eye with three.

The Indians found themselves in foul trouble early with four fouls in the first four minutes. Minneota, meanwhile, didn’t pick up its first foul until Mertz converted an and-1 five minutes into the game to cut the Minneota lead to 15-9. A Hesse layup in traffic and a Paige Haala and-1 cut the Minneota lead to one possession. Yet, Arndt grabbed two offensive rebounds on the Vikings’ next trip down the floor, the second of which she kicked out to Myhre for a long midrange jumper.

After Myhre’s shot, Emma Bottelberghe blocked a shot on the defensive end of the court and rebounded her teammate’s airball on the offensive end for a putback layup. Nevaeh Hennen then downed a layup and a corner 3 on consecutive possessions to give the Vikings a 9-point cushion.

Grace Hennen gave Minneota a 34-23 advantage for its largest lead of the first half with under a minute remaining but a Hesse and-1 with 15 seconds remaining cut Minneota’s lead to 8 points at the half.

After capturing their sixth straight win, the Minneota Vikings are now 9-1 on the season. The Indians dropped their first game of the year and are now 9-1.

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