GIRLS BASKETBALL: Tigers survive in semis

ST. PETER – Class 3A No. 2-ranked Marshall needed every ounce of its intensity to post a 60-56 Section 2 Tournament semifinal victory against Mankato East on Saturday at Gustavus Adolphus College.

The Tigers (27-1) struggled to find their up-tempo attack and made just enough free throws to defeat the Cougars (14-13) – a team that MHS dominated 84-38 at home Dec. 21, 2013.

“(Mankato East) tried to slow the game down a lot more and we couldn’t play our running game because (the Cougars) sat back in a 2-3 zone,” said Marshall forward Callie Graff, who scored two of her three points on a pair of free throws as 51.9 seconds remained. “We realized at halftime that we have to play our own game and that we had to push the ball more. That got us going and put the momentum on our side.”

MHS made 53 percent (19 of 36) of its free throws, while Mankato East missed all three of its attempts at the free-throw line.

Cougars head coach Mike Barger said Saturday’s rematch was a better representation of Mankato East’s squad this season.

“When we played at Marshall, we had just lost some really good players (Allie Taylor, a 6-foot-3 post player, and Makayla Hager, an effective shooting guard, for the season) and we were trying to figure out some things a little bit. We didn’t shoot the ball very well in that game.” Barger said. “We didn’t have the same energy in the first game that we had in (Saturday’s) game. That is our basketball team and how we have been playing lately.”

The Tigers had a solid start, building a 10-2 lead just 3 minutes, 10 seconds into the game. Morgan Saugstad’s putback handed Marshall a 2-0 edge before Hannah Bennett (18 points) hit a top-of-the-key 3 to extend the MHS lead to five points. After a layup from Taylor Karge put the Cougars on the scoreboard, Saugstad (13 points) drained a free throw and Kenzie Beekman (10 points) capped the run with a pair of layups.

For the next 8 minutes, Mankato East held the upper hand with a 21-9 scoring spree that produced a 23-19 lead for the Cougars. Karge (19 points) generated seven markers during the eruption, while Claire Ziegler (22 points, 13 rebounds) led the uprising with eight points.

“We didn’t change our game plan a whole lot for this game,” Barger said. “We were in a little pit of a lull at Marshall and did not play with intensity. I thought we play with a lot of intensity by getting after it pretty good.”

From Saugstad’s three-point play with 12:38 left in the first half until Bennett’s layup at the 5:59 mark, Marshall scored four points – all on free throws – during a span of 6:39.

The Tigers used an 8-2 explosion during the final 5:59 of the first half to grab a 27-25 lead at the break. Buysse tied the score at 23 by making a steal and converting it into a layup. The score became 25-all on Saugstad’s jumper from the left corner and MHS regained control as Bennett, who benefitted from Marshall’s flawless up-court ball movement, finished off a transition layup.

“We came out with great energy and were ahead 10-2, but East hit some shots and started to gain confidence and it became a ballgame,” Marshall head coach Dan Westby said. “We didn’t shoot very well from the field and at the free-throw line in the first half. I think that allowed East to get back into it.”

MHS took a 13-point (41-28) lead by using the first 3 minutes of the second half to make a 14-3 run. Highlights included a left-corner 3-pointer from Bennett; layups from Beekman (three) and Buysse; and free throws from Bennett (two) and Buysse (one).

“Marshall’s intensity is tough to simulate in practice. We had drills of eight players on five to try to prepare for it.” Barger said.

Westby said the Tigers needed to be patient.

“We figured East would stay in its zone in the second half and we needed to show a bit more patience against that zone,” Westby said. “I thought there were too many times in the first half when we just had one pass and a shot. In the second half, we ran a few offensive sets that gave us some baskets and that gave us a little bit of a cushion.

But the Cougars refused to give up and used the 3-point shot to get back into the game.

Mankato East trailed 48-39 after the Cougars received a trio of 3-pointers from Ziegler, Karge and Brie Satre with 6:45 left.

The Tigers’ defense stiffened to secure a pair of 10-second calls against the Cougars in the second half. Overall, Marshall committed 10 turnovers and forced 20.

With 2 minutes left, Mankato East made an 8-3 run to trim the MHS lead to 53-47. Ziegler scored a pair of layups and Shelby Beckman added another before Karge’s putback made it a six-point game.

With the MHS offense limited to only free throws during the final 5:50, the Tigers went 10 of 17 at the charity stripe.

Satre, who knocked down three 3-pointers in the game for nine points, trimmed the Cougars’ deficit to 55-52 with 1:12 left. Marshall took a seven-point lead after Buysse and Graff made four consecutive free throws on the next two Marshall possessions.

“To East’s credit, they shot the ball very well and had some players, who are not typically high scorers, shoot well for them,” Westby said. “That made it harder for us to defend them. Generally, we have to defend two or three players who score a lot and, in those situations, we can provide help defense on them. We certainly didn’t have that opportunity (Saturday).”

Mankato East received two more layups from Ziegler in the final 35 seconds, but could not get any closer.

Buysse said the close victory helped to make the Tigers a better team.

“I think a game like this one Saturday will help us in the way we will prepare for the championship game,” Buysse said.

No. 2 seed Hutchinson defeated No. 6 seed Dassel-Cokato 54-44 the other semifinal game Saturday to advance to face Marshall for the Section 2 Tournament championship. The title game is scheduled to take place at 7 p.m. Thursday at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter.

The Tigers defeated Hutchinson 63-50 in Marshall’s season-opener Dec. 6, 2013, at Hutchinson.

CLASS 3A SECTION 2 TOURNAMENT

Semifinals

Saturday

At Gustavus Adolphus College, St. Peter

MARSHALL 60, MANKATO EAST 56

MANKATO EAST (14-13 OVERALL): Mattea Risting 0 0-0 0, Torey Richards 1 0-0 3, Shayla Karge 1 0-0 2, Paige Lingbeck 0 0-0 0, Taylor Karge 8 0-0 19, Shelby Beckman 1 0-0 2, Claire Ziegler 10 0-3 22, Brie Satre 3 0-0 9. TOTALS: 24 0-3 (0%) 56.

MARSHALL (27-1 OVERALL): Sarah Buysse 4 7-11 16, Morgan Saugstad 5 3-7 13, Marah Mulso 0 0-2 0, Kenzie Beekman 5 0-4 10, Hannah Bennett 5 6-8 18, Callie Graff 0 3-4 3, Gabby Hess 0 0-0 0, Lexi Saugstad 0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 19 19-36 (53%) 60.

HALFTIME: Marshall 27, Mankato East 25. 3-POINT FIELD GOALS: Mankato East 8 (T. Karge 3, Satre 3, Richards, Ziegler); Marshall 3 (Bennett 2, Buysse). REBOUNDS: Mankato East (Ziegler 13); Marshall 31 (M. Saugstad 6, Graff 6, Buysse 5). TOTAL FOULS (FOULED OUT): Mankato East 18 (Richards, S. Karge); Marshall 10 (none). TECHNICAL FOULS: None. ASSISTS: Marshall 7 (Bennett 4, Graff 3). STEALS: Marshall 13 (Buysse 5, Graff 3). BLOCKED SHOTS: Marshall 0. TURNOVERS: Mankato East 20; Marshall 10.