WILLMAR — An eight-point first half lead disappeared as Minnehaha Academy roared back for a 62-51 victory over New London-Spicer to start the Heritage Bank WildCard Tournament Wednesday night.
Minnehaha entered the game as the No. 6 team according to the Follow the Rock with NLS just behind at No. 9, setting the stage for combative opener to the WildCard Tournament involving three state tournament teams (including Willmar) from last season.
The first few minutes of Wednesday's game told the story of the game for both teams. Minnehaha, ranked No. 6 by the Follow the Rock, jumped out to an 11-3 lead after six uncharacteristic turnovers from the Wildcats and a pair of timeouts in the opening five minutes.
"We had too many foolish turnovers at the start of the first half and throughout the second half," said NLS head coach Mike Dreier. "We can't make those mistakes against a good team like that, they'll capitalize on it. Those are the kinds of passes that are open in practice--just soft, meaningless passes and they took advantage."
The Wildcat offense began to find its stride with Shea Oman running the point and hitting jumpers and runners at will. She finished with 17 points. It was the defense that turned up the pressure in the first half. Though the Redhawks were dominant in transition early, NLS was able to keep their opponents from scoring a field goal in the final seven minutes, 50 seconds. The Redhawks only scored on a pair of free throws as NLS took a 27-19 halftime lead.
The second half brought much of the same sloppy turnovers and Minnehaha began to hit its stride. Taytum Rhoads powered the offense early with a slashing style, scoring 16 points and 11 of her team's first 23 points. In the second half, though, Mia Curtis turned things on. She finished the game with 18 points, many of which came in the second half, and excelled as a primary ball handler.
Both teams traded buckets until midway through the second half when Minnehaha began to run away with things. NLS led 46-45 with six minutes, 49 seconds remaining but the Redhawks turned on the jets to run away with a 62-51 win.
"It's a bit of a reality check," Dreier said. "I like to think it's inexperience but some have the understanding of what we need to work on in practice. That's a good starting five that has been together a couple of years and they're more athletic than us at most positions. They're a good team and we need to play better to get a better result."
The Wildcats will move on to play Albany Thursday.
Minnehaha 62, NLS 51
NLS (5-3) 27 24 — 51
Minnehaha (6-3) 19 43 — 62
NEW LONDON-SPICER - Scoring: Shea Oman 17, Mackenzie Rich 4, Emma Hanson 9, Payton Mages 9, Grace DeSchepper 4, Ava Kraemer 3, Erin Knisley 5 ... 3-point shots: Oman 1, Rich 1, Mages 3 ... Rebound leader: Knisley 9, Hanson 9... Assist leader: Oman 4, Mages 4 ... Steal leader: Hanson 4
MINNEHAHA ACADEMY - Scoring: Taytum Rhoades 16, Neveah Galloway 9, Mia Curtis 18, Terra Rhoades 11, Avery New 8 ... 3-point shots: Roads 1, Galloway 1, Curtis 4 ... Rebound leader: NA ... Assist leader: NA ... Steal leader: NA