Vikings three-peat

DAWSON – One thousand, one hundred and thirty-one.

That’s the time in days since the Minneota Vikings last lost a Camden Conference girls’ basketball game. Included in that number is the 51-36 victory over Dawson-Boyd in the Camden Conference Championship on Tuesday.

With the win the Vikings claimed their third consecutive conference title and third straight undefeated conference season. For a team that averages 68 points per game, the Vikings relied heavily on their defense while securing their 49th conference win in a row.

“We probably went into our three-fourths-court trap a little bit more and it’s just the girls executing, is what it comes down to,” Minneota head coach Chad Johnston said. “You’re not trying to get steals every time. Realistically what you’re trying to do is keep them out of their offensive tempo a little bit.”

The Vikings’ press resulted in 17 Dawson-Boyd turnovers and 12 steals for Minneota, while holding the Blackjacks to just two points in the opening nine minutes of the second half.

“That’s obviously one of Minneota’s strengths all year, they put a lot of pressure on you all over the basketball court,” Dawson-Boyd head coach Randy Haakenson said. “We faced them earlier in the year and only turned the ball over a couple of times for the whole game. They made an adjustment and that adjustment really gave us a lot of problems. They took away our middle person. The bottom line, I think, was that Minneota’s pressure, albeit relentless, gave us some problems tonight.”

Under that relentless pressure, the Vikings used a 10-2 run to start the second half and stretched a six-point halftime lead into a 34-19 advantage. The run was capped off when Shelby Corbin banked in one of her three 3-pointers of the game. Corbin finished with 12 points and six assists in the win.

Minneota led throughout the game, though the Blackjacks evened the score on two separate occasions in the first half.

Justine Flattum’s lone basket of the game tied the score at 14-14 with four minutes, 26 seconds to play in the opening half, while Justine Lee rattled home the back end of a pair of free throws to bring the Blackjacks level again at 17-17 with 1:54 until the break.

Dawson-Boyd (21-3 overall, 14-3 Camden) would not score again in the half as Minneota went on a 6-0 run, keyed by tenacious offensive rebounding, to take a 23-17 lead into the locker room.

“Well you know that’s key and I think too many times we haven’t done that well this year,” Johnston said of the Vikings’ offensive rebounding effort. “Lots of times we were caught being spectators, shot goes up and on our team almost everyone expects the shot to go in. We get caught watching too much and we can’t afford to do that. I think the girls did a much better job doing that tonight and getting those second and third attempts. That’s what you need to do against a good team that plays good defense like this.”

Taylor Reiss had 11 of Minneota’s 19 offensive boards, as well as 12 of the team’s 34 total rebounds. The sophomore forward also poured in a game high 16 points. Molly Hennen added six points and 10 rebounds to the winning effort, while Emily Stienessen was all over the stat sheet with nine points, seven rebounds, three assists, three steals and two blocks.

Justine Lee paced the Blackjacks with 10 points, to go with her five rebounds, three assists and three steals. Mari Lee and Katarina Kuhlmann each chipped in eight points, with Kuhlmann leading the team with five assists.

Dawson-Boyd was unable to get the game within double-digits for its remainder, while seeing a six-game winning streak snapped.

Minneota, ranked fourth in Class A, also defeated the Blackjacks by 15 points on Jan. 25. Haakenson was hoping to see some improvement from the previous result, but also saw the game as a teaching point with section playoffs beginning on Saturday for both teams.

“We knew coming into this game, very similar to the first time we played them, Minneota has been beating people 30, 40, 50 points,” he said. “I think, maybe, one of my concerns was coming out and getting beat really bad. Fifteen points is a sound defeat, but I think we feel that we can overcome that if we can eliminate the runs, take care of the basketball and hit a couple of shots. I think that could be a big difference maker.”

The Vikings (23-2, 14-0), the No. 1 seed in Section 3A-North, bring a 10-game win streak with them into the postseason and will face the winner of MACCRAY and Renville County West in Montevideo on Saturday. Second-seeded Dawson-Boyd awaits the victor of Lakeview and Lincoln HI on the same day and at the same venue.