Tiger girls’ hoops team starts slow but finishes strong against Pipestone

MARSHALL – After clinching the Southwest Conference title on Saturday night, the Marshall girls’ basketball team had one more goal in conference play – run the table for the second straight year.

The Tigers (21-3 overall, 12-0 SWC) did just that with a 66-31 win over Pipestone Area, extending their conference win streak to 26.

“This is the second year that we’ve finished 12-0 in the conference,” said Marshall head coach Dan Westby. “I think it’s always important to win your league whenever you have that opportunity.”

Marshall scored first in the game and was up 4-2 before the Arrows (2-20, 1-11) grabbed a three-point lead, which they held for nearly two minutes.

“I thought Pipestone did a really nice of slowing things down,” Westby said. “I thought they showed a lot of patience on the offensive end. I thought they had a really good game plan coming in.”

With 12 minutes, 3 seconds in the half Marshall’s Sarah Andersen cut the Pipestone Area lead back to one, 9-8.

“We lost track of some of their shooters and gave them open looks,” said senior Kelsey Saugstad, who had 13 points. “We weren’t helping as much as we should have on defense in the first half.”

A free throw from Hannah Bennett at 10:07 tied the game 9-9 and the Tigers took off from there.

“Our defense wasn’t as good as it usually is,” said Marshall’s Kenzie Beekman, who led all scorers with 14. “We finally got in the swing of things and our defense got better.”

A pair of free throws from Callie Graff and a basket from Sarah Buysse put Marshall up 13-9. Kelsey Saugstad scored after a Pipestone free throw to make it 15-10 with 8:37 left in the half.

That’s when Marshall turned it on.

“I thought we were most effective when we got out and did some running,” Westby said. “I thought it was difficult for them to keep up at that point.”

The Tigers went on a 17-5 run to end the half, getting baskets from Graff, Buysse, Andersen, Lexi Saugstad and Kenzie Beekman, as well as a pair of free throws from Hannah Bennett to take a 32-15 lead into the half.

“To our kids’ credit, we held them to 15 points in the first half,” Westby said. “And that was after they came out and we were down 9-6.”

In the second half the Arrows hit two quick 3s, cutting the lead to 15, but Marshall would again go on a lopsided scoring run, holding Pipestone Area scoreless for over six-and-a-half minutes to build a 53-23 lead.

“We knew we had the lead,” Kelsey Saugstad said. “We didn’t want to let up. We knew we had to keep pushing.”

In the final 10 minutes of play, the Tigers patiently worked their offense and played defense to coast to a 66-31 win to stay undefeated in Southwest Conference play. Their last conference loss was to Worthington on the road exactly two years ago to the day.

Marshall will end the regular season with a pair of road games, starting with section opponent Willmar on Thursday before traveling to Sioux Falls, S.D., to face Sioux Falls Roosevelt in the finale.

“Thursday night is a big section game for us at Willmar,” Westby said. “They are a team that has been really up and down and going to their place will be difficult.”

Pipestone Area (31)

Amanda Haupert 3 1-4 10, Cassie Evans 4 0-0 9, Tia Muller 0 2-2 2, Laura Rudie 1 0-0 2, Kelly Nettik 1 1-2 3, Ashley Griebel 1 0-0 2, Libby Schneider 1 1-5 3. Totals 11 5-13 31. 3-pointers 4 (Haupert 3, Muller 1).

Marshall (66)

Sarah Buysse 3 0-0 7, Morgan Saugstad 1 0-0 2, Kelsey Saugstad 5 2-4 13, Kenzie Beekman 7 0-0 14, Hannah Bennett 3 3-5 10, Callie Graff 1 2-2 4, Lexi Saugstad 2 0-0 4, Sarah Andersen 4 0-0 8, Jackie Petrich 0 2-2 2, Emma Doyle 1 0-0 2. Totals 27 9-13 66. 3-pointers 3 (Buysse 1, K. Saugstad 1, Bennett 1) Rebounds 24 (Beekman 6, Andersen 4) Assists 18 (Beekman 8, K. Saugstad 3, Bennett 3) Steals 15 (Buysse 3, K. Saugstad 3) Blocks 3 Turnovers 8.

Halftime Score: Marshall 32, Pipestone Area 15.