Panthers pounce on Rebels

By Alex Oey

SLAYTON – In a back-and-forth game with 10 lead changes and four ties, it was free throws down the stretch that gave the Tracy-Milroy-Balaton girls’ basketball team a 56-53 win over Murray County Central in Slayton on Tuesday night.

The Panthers (9-8 overall) were 6-for-6 from the charity stripe in the final 52 seconds to take the win over the Rebels (7-8) and put them on a three-game winning streak.

“We knew that they really get after it in the paint,” said TMB co-coach Derek Ashbaugh. “This is one of those rivalry games where we hoped we were able to shoot well enough to come out on top at the end.”

“We know that TMB is always an aggressive team,” added MCC head coach Laura Jenson. “It was a home game, so we knew there was a lot riding on it tonight.”

Early in the game the two teams traded leads several times before MCC went up 14-8 with a Rebekah Nysetvold 3-pointer. TMB regained a 20-19 lead with under four minutes to play in the half when Jenna Stoneberg hit two of her 11 points.

Two more lead changes happened before the Panthers would take a 27-24 lead into the half.

“At halftime we talked about keep doing a lot of the things we were doing on defense,” Ashbaugh said. “The other thing was, let’s finish at the rim.”

“We talked about keeping up the intensity,” Jenson said. “Offensively we had to keep going at the basket.”

The Rebels quickly took a 28-27 lead in the second half, but a three-pointer from TMB’s Kelli Soupir gave the Panthers the lead once again.

Building the lead to as much as nine points, TMB was up 47-38 with less than seven minutes left to play, but a 10-0 run by MCC, which included baskets from Taylor Schreier, Jenna Ness, Morgan Behrends and Sierra Vanlperen, put the Rebels ahead 48-47.

“Our shots started falling more in the second half,” said Schreier. “We got open more.”

The two teams battled and with 1:16 left in the game MCC held a 51-50 lead before TMB’s Cassie Hook went to the line with 52 seconds on the clock.

Her two made free throws put the Panthers back on top 52-51. Just 20 seconds later, she found herself back at the stripe, where she drained two more to make it a 54-51 game.

“I was thinking that I had to drain all of these,” said Hook. “I just thought, they are all going in.”

Schreier came back down the floor and made it a one-point game with 24 seconds left, forcing the Rebels to foul, sending Soupir to the line.

Soupir’s two shots made it a three-point game, 56-53, with 16 seconds left to play.

“I was very confident going up to the line,” Soupir said. “We’ve been working on free throws a lot in practice, pressure situations. I just stepped up and tried to do my best to help out our team.”

With under 10 seconds on the clock Ness put up a three that was no good, but a Rebel jump ball with 7.6 set MCC up with a final chance to tie the game.

“Taylor Schreier is a good shooter when her feet are set out on the three,” said Jenson. “We were looking for that opportunity. We were looking to screen for our shooters, but we weren’t able to do that.”

TMB knocked the ball out of bounds twice, cutting the time down to 6.8 seconds. On the next in-bounds play, Ness was forced to throw up a long three as time expired, which missed, giving TMB the 56-53 win.

“We had a couple girls that really wanted to step up and hit those free throws,” Ashbaugh said. “We stepped up and did what we had to do to win the game.”

Both teams will be in action again on Thursday when the Panthers travel to Luverne and MCC makes the trip to Mountain Lake.