Thunder hold on to beat Rebels
The game was won in the third period, and Medina-Pingree-Buchanan girls basketball coach Cory Mack was thankful for that.
But the Rebels refused to throw in the towel and cut the advantage to just one point (44-43) in the fourth before Medina-Pingree-Buchanan was able to seal a 50-46 victory.
M-P-B (4-1) moves on to face Ellendale (5-1) in today’s semifinals at 6 p.m.
“They worked hard the entire game,” Mack said of the Thunder. “We just told them at halftime, ‘You’ve got to come out and win it in the first four minutes of the third quarter, otherwise it’s going to be a close game.
“Thank goodness we did pull away some.”
The Thunder led 26-21 after a tightly-contested first half that didn’t lack intensity. But it was M-P-B that was able to carry that intensity over to the second half.
The Thunder swarmed to the ball, attacking the Rebels the entire length of the court, and came up with 7 E-K-M turnovers to pull ahead 34-21 in the first four minutes. It was part of a 13-0 run that started with 1 minute, 23 seconds left in the second when the game was tied at 21-21.
The Thunders’ Morgan Thomas drilled a pair of 3-pointers during the run, one in the second period and one in the third, and she led her team in scoring with 16 points.
The Rebels’ Baylee Berg answered with a bucket to end the run at 34-23, but that was the only field goal E-K-M would muster in the frame as they trailed 42-24 to start the fourth. The Thunder was credited with 17 steals in the game, receiving 5 from sophomore Jordan Thomas, who also finished with 16 rebounds.
“We’ve got to learn how to handle the ball,” E-K-M coach Megan Cleveland said. “I mean, you can’t telegraph the pass every time and expect that they’re not going to steal it.”
But the fouls began to mount for the Thunder in the fourth as they called off the full-court press. They’d finish with 21 team fouls, which sent the Rebels to the line where they’d convert.
E-K-M was light’s-out at the charity stripe, going a perfect 15-of-15 which helped cut the lead to 44-43 with 3 minutes to play. E-K-M senior Kelsey Feist led the way going 7-of-7 from the line in the fourth.
Feist led all scoring with 21 points following an 11-for-11 performance at the free-throw line.
“They were scoring with the clock not running,” Mack said. “We were just out of position in some places and probably overaggressive. We should have backed it off some sooner than we did.
“They wanted the ball in Feist’s hands, obviously. She can shoot free throws.”
The only freebies the Rebels missed in the frame were a pair off the hands of sophomore Olivia Anderson with just under 12 seconds left in the game, which kept the Thunder out front 48-46.
Anderson finished with a double-double of 10 points and 12 rebounds. Morgan Thomas sank a pair of bonus shots to produce the final score.
“I’m proud of my girls. They didn’t give up and kept going, so I was happy with the end of the game,” Cleveland said. “Obviously we would have liked to win, but that’s good for their confidence to be that close. Medina’s a good team.”
Mack and the Thunder are well aware that the task gets harder today against Ellendale.
“We’re going to have our hands full. We’ve got to play good, solid defense,” Mack said. “They won’t turn the ball over like we saw tonight. We’ve got to hustle back on defense and try to execute some offense too.”
No. 4 Medina-Pingree-Buchanan 50, No. 5 Edgeley-Kulm-Montpelier 46
M-P-B 12 26 42 50
E-K-M 10 21 24 46
M-P-B — Morgan Thomas 16, Courtney Heupel 9, Jenna Van Ray 9, Jaycee Moldenhauer 8, Jordan Thomas 6, Madi Moldenhauer 2. Totals: 20-73 FG, 8-12 FT, 3-pointers: 2-5 (M. Thomas 2), 39 Rebounds, 21 Fouls (J. Moldenhauer), 4 Assists (Brooke Krapp 2), 15 Turnovers, 1 Block (M. Thomas), 17 Steals (J. Thomas 5).
E-K-M — Kelsey Feist 21, Olivia Anderson 10, Baylee Berg 6, Alexis Jensen 5, Taylor Mathern 2, Katie Entzi 2. Totals: 12-42 FG, 20-23 FT, 3-pointers: 2-7 (Feist 2), 40 Rebounds (Anderson 12), 14 Fouls, 6 Assists (Mathern 2), 31 Turnovers, 9 Blocks (Anderson 5), 8 Steals (Feist 3).
Records: M-P-B 4-1; E-K-M 2-3.
Sun sports writer Michael Savaloja can be reached at (701) 952-8461 or by email at email@example.com