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Girls Basketball: Dragons defy odds, hold off Eden Valley-Watkins

Litchfield guard Greta Walsh blows by the Eden Valley-Watkins defense and heads into the front court during a Section 6AA South Sub-Section semifinals game Saturday at St. John's University. Litchfield rallied to down the Eagles 61-49 and will play New London-Spicer for the sub-section championship on Tuesday at SJU. Tribune photo by Tom Larson

COLLEGEVILLE – A bettor would have felt pretty good about Eden Valley-Watkins’ odds of winning its Section 6AA South Sub-Section semifinals game against Litchfield on Saturday about midway through the second half.

Despite a dogged effort by star guard Greta Walsh and the Dragons, the 20-win Eagles held a three-point lead with 12:34 to play and were getting a little breather while one of Litchfield’s top players, Bailey Koch, was being helped to the bench with a knee sprain.

Litchfield’s concerned reserves spent almost as much time turning around to watch Koch test-jog on her balking knee in an area behind the bench as they did watching the game. Situation officially dire.

Except it really wasn’t. The Dragons apparently had the Eagles right where they wanted them and the bettors were in trouble.

Koch soon re-entered the lineup, the resilient Dragons tied the game at 44, then outscored the Eagles 17-5 in the final nine minutes to ease into the sub-section title game with a 61-49 victory at St. John’s University.

“I feel like it was our defense that did it,” said Walsh, who scored a game-high 28 points and became Litchfield’s top all-time scorer with 1,444 points, surpassing former Dragon star Jamie Wollin by six points. “We got in their faces and they had troubles. We always believe that if we can shut teams down defensively, the offense will take care of itself.”

The Dragons improved to 15-12 overall and won for the fifth time in their last six games, snapping EVW’s 17-game winning streak. The Central Minnesota Conference champs were 4-4 on Jan. 4 when they began their streak.

Litchfield, which plays in the Wright County Conference, was ready.

“Our conference (schedule) is harder than our section so we were prepared for this kind of game,” Walsh said.

They probably were not prepared to play without Koch but no one would have noticed. Plus, the senior forward wasn’t prepared to end her prep career on the bench with an ice bag wrapped around her knee.

“In my mind, we needed to win this game so I kept my mind off (the knee injury),” Koch said, who scored 13 points and led the Dragons with 9 rebounds. “This could have been my last game and I didn’t want it to end here.”

Koch twisted the knee and fell at midcourt and she couldn’t put any weight on it as she was helped to the bench.

“It was hard,” she said. “I was really discouraged but we pulled together as a team.”

The key was a defensive switch to a 3-2 zone that pushed the Eagles into the corners for open looks, a shot many prep players are not comfortable with, said Dragons head coach Bill Huhner.

While clear-headed enough to employ the correct tactics to engineer a comeback win, even the coach was a little stunned his team was able to beat the odds.

“The whole first half was a struggle,” Huhner said with a smile. “The whole game is just a blur right now.”

Litchfield 61, Eden Valley-Watkins 49

Eden Valley-Watkins (21-5) … 27 22 – 49

Litchfield (15-12)……………….23 38 – 61

EDEN VALLEY-WATKINS – 15 FG (2 3-pt); 17-26 FT; NA rebounds; 23 fouls … Scoring: Missy Kummet 11, Mikayla Kummet 3, Holly Schumacher 2, Courtney Dilley 15, Brook Stang 5, Dani Nelson 6, Greta Stommes 5, Maria Holdvogt 2 … 3-point shots: M.Kummet 1, Stang 1 … Rebounds: NA … Assists: NA … Steals: NA

LITCHFIELD (15-12) – 16 FG (4-6 3-pt); 25-31 FT; NA rebounds; 22 fouls … Scoring: Greta Walsh 38, Mariah Hoff 2, Hannah Norlin 10, Bailey Koch 13, Tasha Stubeda 4, Kelsey Fisher 3, Kristen Klaben 1 … 3-point shots: Walsh 3, Koch 1 … Rebounds: NA … Assists: NA … Steals: NA

Tom Larson

Tom Larson is the sports editor of the West Central Tribune.

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