GIRLS BASKETBALL: Unbeaten Tigers use 2nd-half run to top O’Gorman

MARSHALL – The Class 3A No. 8-ranked Marshall Tigers defeated two quality opponents during the Borch’s Sporting Goods Holiday Classic.

After outlasting Delano 75-71 on Friday at Southwest Minnesota State University’s R/A Facility, Marshall pulled away from Sioux Falls, S.D., O’Gorman during the second half of a 73-63 win Saturday.

“It was good for us to play two quality opponents like these,” MHS head coach Dan Westby said. “We were fortunate to come away with two wins.”

The Tigers (9-0 overall) handed the Knights (5-1) their first loss this season. Delano, which entered the Borch’s Sporting Goods Holiday Classic with a 6-1 mark, dropped a pair of games in Marshall. Sioux Falls Washington (7-0), the No. 1-ranked team in South Dakota’s Class AA, knocked off Delano 67-43 on Saturday at R/A Facility.

Hannah Bennett (20 points, seven assists) lifted Marshall by scoring 15 of the Tigers’ 38 second-half points. With 7:15 left, she became the catalyst of a 13-4 run that secured the MHS victory.

Tied at 35 after 18 minutes, Sarah Buysse (16 points, three assists) hit a left-wing 3-pointer to provide some brief separation for the Tigers, who led 44-39 a little more than four minutes into the second half.

Kenzie Beekman, who turned in an all-around effort with nine points, three assists, three steals and two blocked shots for Marshall, scored a layup off an assist from Bennett as MHS extended its lead to 50-41 as 13:44 remained.

But MHS had to stop the Knights’ second-half surge before pulling away for good.

The Tigers led 56-47 on a Bennett field goal with 9:20 left before O’Gorman scored the next seven points. Jessica Mieras flipped in a layup, Claire Howes drove for another layup and Peyton Bjorkman completed a 3-point play to trim the Knights’ deficit to two points.

Mieras had 12 points for O’Gorman, which received 11 more from Bjorkman and eight from Howes.

Bennett hit a jumper with 6:20 remaining to give the Tigers a 58-54 lead and, after a Rachel Townsend basket put the Knights with in two points again, Buysse made two technical free throws and Bennett drained a right-wing 3-pointer on the ensuing MHS possession.

The O’Gorman bench was assessed a technical foul with 5:18 remaining when head coach Kent Kolsrud asked for an explanation of an official’s call with Marshall leading 58-56. The Tigers seized the momentum of that situation.

“I am really proud of our kids and the effort they gave against a well-coached, strong Marshall team,” Kolsrud said. “We played with a lot of confidence and a lot of kids stepped up to make some big plays for us. It was an unfortunate situation near the end that changed the momentum of the game.”

Two missed free throws by Howes failed to cut into O’Gorman’s deficit with 4:51 left before Marshall’s Lexi Saugstad hit a 3-pointer to hand the Tigers a 10-point (66-56) edge with 4:20 left.

After Mieras made a pair of free throws, Marah Mulso’s 3-point play and Bennett’s transition layup with 2:40 left provided the Tigers with a 13-point lead – Marshall’s largest advantage of the game.

“I thought we handled (O’Gorman’s) man-to-man defense better than their zone,” Westby said of the Tigers’ second-half effort. “We have not seen a lot of zone defenses against us this season and we didn’t attack it very well.”

Before MHS could record its second victory of the weekend, the Tigers needed to overcome a slow start that allowed the Knights take an 8-2 lead on Dalee Steen’s 3-pointer just three minutes, 11 seconds into the game. That shot was the first of four 3-pointers Stene had in the game en route to scoring an O’Gorman-high 16 points.

Morgan Saugstad, who finished with 13 points, scored Marshall’s first nine markers with a pair of free throws, a right-corner 3-pointer, a reverse layup and another field goal to trim the MHS deficit to 10-9 with 13:45 left in the first half.

“When Morgan gets time (on the court), she is one of the best shooters that we have,” Westby said. “It was nice to see her get going, offensively, early. It certainly kept us in the game.”

Callie Graff (five points) capped the Tigers’ 10-2 run with a 3-point play to give Marshall its first lead (12-10). She stuck back a missed shot and drained her only free-throw attempt of the game at the 13:33 mark.

The rest of the first half was a back-and-forth battle that featured six lead changes and six ties.

Marshall return to the court Friday with a Southwest Conference game at Windom Area.