GIRLS BASKETBALL: Balanced scoring leads Tigers over Cards

MARSHALL – The Marshall girls basketball team was firing on all cylinders against Southwest Conference rival Luverne Friday in Marshall.

The Class 3A No. 4-ranked Tigers put together a stellar offensive effort and a solid defensive performance, working their way to a 58-19 halftime advantage and cruising to a 78-32 victory. With the win, Marshall improves to 8-0 in conference action and 15-1 overall.

Led by Marah Mulso’s game-high 16 points, the Tigers had five players in double-digit scoring. Sarah Buysse, Morgan Saugstad, Kenzie Beekman and Callie Graff each chipped in 11 points for Marshall, while Hannah Bennett added nine.

“We certainly shot the ball well, especially in the first-half,” Tiger head coach Dan Westby said. “Things always go a lot easier when the ball goes in the basket. We came close to having six players in double figures, so we had balanced scoring, too.”

Buysse, Saugstad and Graff collected all of their points in the first-half, while Mulso contributed evenly in both halves.

“We have a lot of girls that can score and there were a ton of us that had a lot points (Friday),” Mulso said. “We do a really good job of moving the ball and getting it to each other. That was good to see.”

Luverne put together a 7-0 run midway through the second half, capped off by a three-point play from Nicole Kneip, after which Marshall stepped up its intensity once again.

Lexi Saugstad drained a three-pointer from the left side to give the Tigers a 67-30 edge with nine minutes and 23 seconds remaining, followed by back-to-back baskets from Mulso. After Haley Bennett hit from downtown, Mulso contributed a jumper from the free-throw line and followed up with a pair of free throws to stretch Marshall’s lead to 48.

“My teammates did a really good job of getting the ball to me,” Mulso said. “I had a lot of open looks and they did a good job of finding me.”

While the Tigers shot well throughout the contest, the team also had a stout defensive effort overall.

“Luverne came out and played hard early on,” Westby said. “Defensively, we thought we gave us some things early that we shouldn’t have. But to our kids’ credit, I thought we made some adjustments and kind of shored up things after that.”

Though Marshall held its opponent to 32 points, Mulso also felt the defensive effort wasn’t as sharp early on.

“We didn’t come out as strong as we wanted to,” Mulso said. “We didn’t really stop the dribble-drive. And No. 51 (Tara Sudenga) was a really good shooter. We wanted to stop her and we didn’t do a very good job of that at first. But in the second half, we played a lot better defense and we were happy with how we did.”

The Tigers gave up 19 first-half points and only 13 in the final half, which Westby was pleased to see.

“We didn’t want to have a let-up,” he said. “We didn’t want to relax on the defensive end. We had a nice cushion there at halftime, so the offense wasn’t the issue. But we thought we needed to work harder defensively.”

As playoffs loom in the near future, a strong emphasis has been placed on defense at practice and in games, Westby said.

“We’d always like us to be a solid defensive team regardless of who we’re playing, especially as we get closer to tournament time.,” Westby said. “We’ve been working a lot on defense in practice and we had hoped to see some carry-over in the game (Friday).”

Buysse hauled down five rebounds for Marshall, while Morgan Saugstad had four. Hannah Bennett dished out five assists and picked up three steals for the Tigers, while Beekman swiped four steals. Saugstad, Mulso, Beekman and Jackie Petrich each blocked a shot in the matchup.

Morgan Haugen led the Cardinals with 10 points, followed by Sudenga (7), Nikki Severson (6) and Amanda Barnhart (6).

Marshall continues action in a non-conference contest with Hill-Murray today in Maplewood. It’s a game that Westby said the team is looking forward to.

“It’ll be a big game,” Westby said. “They’re always a good team. They’re well-coached and playing at their place won’t be easy. It’ll be a tough game.”


LUVERNE (5-12 OVERALL, 2-6 SOUTHWEST): Nicole Kneip 1 1-1 3, Morgan Haugen 4 0-0 10, Nikki Severson 3 0-0 6, Amanda Barnhart 3 0-0 6, Tara Sudenga 3 0-0 7. TOTALS: 14 1-1 32.

MARSHALL (15-1 OVERALL, 8-0 SOUTHWEST): Sarah Buysse 3 4-4 11, Morgan Saugstad 4 0-0 11, Haley Bennett 1 0-0 3, Marah Mulso 7 2-2 16, Kenzie Beekman 5 1-1 11, Hannah Bennett 3 2-2 9, Callie Graff 3 3-3 11, Lexi Saugstad 2 0-0 6. TOTALS: 28 12-12 78.

HALFTIME: Marshall 58, Luverne 19. 3-POINT FIELD GOALS: Luverne 3 (Haugen 2, Sudenga 1); Marshall 8 (M. Saugstad 3, Graff 2, Buysse 1, Haley Bennett 1, Hannah Bennett 1). REBOUNDS: Luverne (not available); Marshall 27 (Buysse 5, M. Saugstad 4, Haley Bennett 2). TOTAL FOULS (FOULED OUT): Luverne 9 (none); Marshall 10 (none). TECHNICAL FOULS: None. ASSISTS: Luverne (not available); Marshall 15 (Hannah Bennett 5, L. Saugstad 2, Haley Bennett 2). STEALS: Luverne (not available); Marshall 14 (Beekman 4, Hannah Beekman 3). BLOCKED SHOTS: Luverne (not available); Marshall 4 (M. Saugstad 1, Mulso 1, Beekman 1, Jackie Petrich 1). TURNOVERS: Luverne (not available); Marshall 6.