D-B turns up the heat

CANBY – In their last contest prior to Monday night’s game against the Canby Lancers, the Dawson-Boyd girls’ basketball was forced to abandon one of its most effective tools. Playing against the fourth-ranked (Class A) Minneota Vikings on Friday, the Blackjacks went away from the full-court press and found themselves on the losing end for the first time in eight games.

On Monday against the Lancers, the Blackjacks made a point to ratchet up the pressure and it paid off. Dawson-Boyd’s press led to 18 team steals and 29 Canby turnovers, while the Blackjacks went home with a 53-38 Camden Conference victory.

“Our press, we feel, has been very effective all year long,” Dawson-Boyd head coach Randy Haakenson said. “We played Minneota last Friday and found out very quickly that we couldn’t press them effectively. So I think maybe in terms of our pressure that we had some trouble getting into that pressure mainly because we took a game off from doing it. And then with the weekend and game Monday, we anticipated it being a sluggish game and that’s what we came out and did.”

After Brandi Merritt made the game’s first basket to give Canby a 3-0 lead with 16 minutes, 53 seconds to play in the first half, the Blackjacks found their first success with the press on the night.

Three steals by Dawson-Boyd led to six points in 21 seconds, as the Blackjacks took a 6-3 lead with 15:10 remaining before halftime.

Dawson-Boyd continued to press when possible in the first half, but struggled to make the baskets necessary to set up their full court defense. Half of the problem on the offensive end came from Canby’s zone defense, the other half from indecisiveness.

“I don’t understand, tonight we struggled a little bit with finding open people,” Haakenson said. “And we had open people, it was just an issue of getting them the basketball. High post, low post, they were both wide open, but we just weren’t putting the ball inside. Sometimes I think, too, we are a little bit tentative offensively. I don’t know if (the zone) gave us as many problems as we didn’t take advantage of the chances we had.”

Canby (9-7 overall, 6-4 Camden) was unable to seize the opportunity provided by Dawson-Boyd’s erratic first half shooting as the Lancers had difficulties with their own half-court offense.

With primary ball handler Morgan Merritt sidelined for much of the game with a wrist injury after a hard foul, the Lancers were outsized and out of synch on the offensive end. If not for Brandi Merritt’s 14 first-half points, including four 3-pointers, the Blackjacks could have taken a lead much larger than 22-21 into halftime.

Canby’s defense continued to fluster the Blackjacks in the early stages of the second half, as the Lancers went on a 7-1 run over the opening five minutes of the half.

The Blackjacks (16-2, 9-2) got their first field goal of the second half with 12:45 to play on Katarina Kuhlmann’s second 3 of the game. Nicole Jurgenson knocked down one of two free throws to cut the Canby lead down to 28-27.

Taylor Gorder responded with a tough bucket inside to put the Lancer’s up 30-27 with 11:11 remaining, but Justine Lee struck back from beyond the arc for the Blackjacks to tie the game with 9:48 to play.

Dawson-Boyd looked like a different team following the clutch 3-pointer by Lee, as the Blackjacks settled into their press and took control of the game.

Behind seven points by Sadie Zaiser over the next 50 seconds following Lee’s 3, the Blackjacks were able to build their largest lead of the night to that point and swing the momentum firmly in their favor.

“It certainly did,” Haakenson said. “We always feel that we have a couple of girls that we can turn to often. We’ve got two primary scorers and after that somebody’s got to step up after that every night. And tonight it was Sadie Zaiser. She works hard. She deserves a game like that and we’re real proud of her.”

Zaiser led the Blackjacks, who outscored Canby 23-8 after tying the game at 30-30, with 13 points. Justine Lee added 10 points, nine assists, nine steals and six rebounds, while Mari Lee chipped in with 11 points and nine boards.

Canby cut the Dawson-Boyd lead to as little as four at 41-37, when Gorder completed an old fashioned three-point play with 6:51 left on the clock. The Blackjacks responded by going 5-for-6 on free throws over the next three minutes and building an 11-point lead.

Dawson-Boyd went 17-for-21 from the line for the game, while Canby was just 7-for-12.

Along with Brandi Merritt, Ricki Kallhoff also reached double figures with 12 points for Canby. Kallhoff added six rebounds and two blocks, while Gorder added three assists, three steals and six rebounds to her seven points.

Canby, which saw a four-game winning streak snapped with the loss, travels out of conference and to Madison to face Lac qui Parle Valley for its next game on Thursday. The Blackjacks, meanwhile, host Central Minnesota Christian in a Camden Conference-North showdown the same evening.