Marshall girls cruise into 2AAA semis

MARSHALL -A year after the Marshall girls’ basketball team was bounced from the Section 2AAA playoffs by a state-bound Hutchinson team, the 2013 rematch went the other way.

Marshall overcame a slow start with a stingy defense and defeated Hutchinson 57-26 in the first round of playoffs.

“We knew they are well-coached and that they would be prepared, and they certainly were,” said Marshall head coach Dan Westby. “We just told our kids the first five minutes of this game are very important”

Hutchinson struck first in the game, going up 2-0 early, but the Tigers quickly went on a seven-point run, all scored by Hannah Bennett, who hit a pair of jumpers and a 3-pointer.

“Hannah really got us going offensively,” Westby said. “We were struggling offensively a bit and Hannah, fortunately, hit some baskets for us and got us going.”

Marshall slowly added to its lead, going up by 10 for the first time on a Morgan Saugstad 3-pointer with seven minutes, 13 seconds left in the first half. A basket from Kelsey Saugstad just over two minutes later made it a 20-8 game and the Tigers went on a 9-4 run in the final 3:37 of the half, started by a 3-pointer from Sarah Buysse and finished with a three-point play from Kenzie Beekman, who led all scorers with 15, to make it a 29-12 lead at the half.

“I think we had the jitters to start,” Beekman said. “We finally settled down and played good defense.”

Added Westby, “I thought we did defend well in the first half giving up just 12 points. That was a pretty good effort by our kids.”

In the second half, the Tiger offense and defense both got hot.

Marshall went on a 22-2 run to start the second half that was finally ended by an Alex Wortz 3-pointer for Hutchinson with 7:15 left in the game. The two points came from a pair of Traci Schwantes free throws midway through the run.

“I think we played really well together and we talked a lot,” Beekman said.

Beekman, Bennett, Kelsey Saugstad, Sarah Andersen, Morgan Saugstad, Jackie Petrich and Lexi Saugstad all scored for Marshall in the run, which put the Tigers up 54-17 with just 7:15 left in the game.

“We talked about how the first few minutes of the second half were just as important as the first few minutes of the game,” Westby said. “I thought our kids really came out and got after them both in our pressure and in our half-court defense.”

The Tigers would score just three points in the final seven minutes of the game, but the lead was too much for Hutchinson to overcome and Marshall came away with the 57-27 win.

The Tigers will travel to Gustavus Adolphus College on Saturday to face the second-seeded Mankato East team, which defeated Glencoe-Silver Lake 50-40.

The Cougars handed Marshall one of its three losses this season.

“They are a good team. They have a good combination of size and quickness. They are a tough matchup,” Westby said. “We just need to really be mindful of following our defensive rules and knowing defensively what our assignments are.”