MARSHALL -- For the Yellow Medicine East Sting, the season ended one win short of state. Still, on Friday night, they were where they wanted to be.
"This was our goal," said Emily Baker on the basketball court at Southwest Minnesota State University after the Jackson County Central Huskies had claimed the Section 3AA championship trophy with a 57-41 win. "We wanted to win the conference and we did that, and we wanted to get to the section final."
The Huskies (26-2) were just too much for the Sting. The only chance the sub-section North champs had was to shoot a lot better, but Jackson County Central's swarming end-to-end defense made that difficult to do.
"They're quick and their press is tough. They rush you on offense," added Baker, who finished with seven points, nine rebounds and five blocks.
The Huskies turned a 7-6 lead into a 14-point bulge with 13 unanswered points.
That cushion waxed and waned, but the Sting never got closer than 11 points at 47-36 on a bucket by Gretchen Rigge with 6:56 left in the second half.
"The press was tough, but our guards handled it well except for a couple of spells," said YME head coach Scott Jans. "I was impressed with the way we responded. We were patient and I don't think it hurt us that much. JCC is just a very good. They do many things well. It's not just their press. They're very athletic."
Steph Larson, the only senior in the starting five, led the Sting in scoring with 10 points followed by Angie Scheffler with eight.
"We could have run our offense a little better and waited for better shots," said Larson. "But this was a great experience. Not many teams get this far."
JCC showed good balance. Kaylee Benson popped for 15 points by making three of her team's five 3-pointers. Leslie Handzus operated the offense dealing nine assists to go with 12 points. Brittney Kruse and Courtney Kruse each scored 10. The Huskies' top scorer this season, Whitney Burmeister, was hardly needed and settled for six points.
JCC, which won the Southwest Conference, lost only to Estherville (Iowa) Lincoln and Marshall, in overtime. The Huskies will meet Section 4AA champion, either Minnehaha Academy or St. Croix Lutheran, on Wednesday at Target Center.
Jackson CC 57, YME 41
YME (20-7) 19 22 -- 41
JCC (26-2) 33 24 -- 57
YELLOW MEDICINE EAST - 17-43 FG (1-10 3-pt); 6-10 FT; 27 rebounds; 14 fouls ... Scoring: Gretchen Rigge 4, Steph Larson 10, Kylie Jans 6, Courtney Hinz 6, Emily Baker 7, Angie Scheffler 8 ... 3-point shots: Larson 1 ... Rebound leaders: Baker 9, Hinz 6, Scheffler 5 ... Assist leaders: Hinz 4, Larson 3, Scheffler 3 ... Steal leaders: Larson 4 ... Blocks: Baker 5
JACKSON COUNTY CENTRAL - 21-52 FG (5-16 3-pt); 10-14 FT; 29 rebounds; 11 fouls ... Scoring: Leslie Handzus 12, Brittney Kruse 10, Marita Rasche 2, Courtney Kruse 10, Kaylee Benson 15, Tracey Steffen 2, Whitney Burmeister 6 ... 3-point shots: Benson 3, Handzus 2 ... Rebound leaders: Kaylee Burmeister 7, B. Kruse 6 ... Assist leaders: Handzus 9 ... Steal leaders: K. Burmeister 3, Rasche 3