MARSHALL?- Manufacturing a big 24-3 run over the final 11 minutes of the first half Tuesday night, the fourth-seeded Marshall Tigers erased an early 10-point deficit and built an 11-point halftime advantage on their way to claiming a 60-49 victory over the fifth-seeded Willmar Cardinals in the quarterfinal round of the Section 2AAA high school girls' basketball tournament.
Hannah Bennett connected of three of her four first-half three-pointers during Marshall's 21-point burst, finishing with a game-high 17 points to help the Tigers (21-6 overall) advance to the section semifinals. Marshall, which also defeated Willmar 61-53 back on Feb. 16, travels to play top-seeded Hutchinson (23-3) at 7 p.m. Saturday night.
"This was a really nice win for us to open the tournament," Marshall head coach Dan Westby said after the game. "We first want to give Willmar and coach Brad Atchison a lot of credit, as they jumped on us early with very good patience offensively and sharp shooting to go along with some defensive intensity. They got up by 10 on us pretty quickly, but our girls sure responded well the rest of the way."
Photo by Joe Brown
Marshall’s Kenzie Beekman, left, and Kelsey Saugstad, right, swarm Willmar’s Megan Skalla on a half-court trap as teammate Sarah Roehl (45) looks for the pass during Tuesday’s Section 2AAA first-round playoff game at Marshall High School.
With five players scoring in the initial seven minutes, the Cardinals (12-14) came out firing in what turned out to be Atchison's final game as coach. Atchison is stepping down after a long coaching career that included nearly 600 victories with three different programs.
Lindsey Atchison, Brad's daughter, opened the game's scoring with a left-wing three-pointer 40 seconds in. Bennett answered with her first three-pointer at the 15:45 mark, and Marshall took a 5-3 lead when Kenzie Beekman (nine points, nine rebounds) converted a steal into a hoop 13 seconds later.
But the Cardinals outscored the Tigers 12-0 over the next four minutes and took a 15-5 lead by the 11:05 mark. Anne Dunham netted two free throws and buried a catch-and-shoot three-pointer, Laura Swartz (team-high 11 points) scored on a drive from the left side, and Heather Horning (10 points) hit a three-pointer before passing to Megan Skalla for a fastbreak basket to trigger Willmar's hot start and force a Marshall timeout.
Lindsey Atchison 2 0-0 5, Casey Marcus 1 0-0 3, Addy Nelsen 3 0-0 7, Heather Horning 4 0-0 10, Anne Dunham 1 2-2 5, Megan Skalla 2 0-0 4, Laura Swartz 5 0-0 11, Katie Lippert 2 0-0 4, Sarah Roehl 0 0-2 0. Totals 20 2-4 49. Three-Pointers 7 (Horning 2) Rebounds 32 (Dunham 5) Assists 16 (Atchison 4) Steals 5 Blocks 2 Turnovers 20 Total Fouls 15.
Morgan Saugstad 0 2-2 2, Kelsey Saugstad 5 3-4 13, Kenzie Beekman 3 3-4 9, Hannah Bennett 6 1-2 17, Kelli VanLeeuwe 4 2-2 10, Jessica Baker 1 1-2 3, Sarah Buysse 1 0-0 2, Callie Graff 0 1-2 1, Sarah Andersen 0 1-2 1, Sydney Griffin 1 0-0 2. Totals 21 14-20 60. Three-Pointers 4 (Bennett 4) Rebounds 43 (Beekman 9, K. Saugstad 8, Baker 7) Assists 10 (K. Saugstad 4) Steals 12 (Baker 3) Blocks 0 Turnovers 11 Total Fouls 9.
Halftime Score: Marshall 29, Willmar 18.
The Tigers, though, came out of the break and completely turned the game around in a hurry. Marshall got its full-court defensive pressure going and forced Willmar to either turn the ball over or rush shots frequently, as the Cardinals scored just three more points the rest of the half on a three-pointer by Casey Marcus with 8:00 on the clock.
Meanwhile, the Tigers rattled off 13 consecutive points and grabbed an 18-15 lead at the 8:18 mark. An interior basket by Sydney Griffin initiated that surge, while layups by Kelli VanLeeuwe (10 points) and Kelsey Saugstad (13 points, eight rebounds and four assists) off the press kept the momentum headed in Marshall's direction.
Bennett sank one of two free throws before she drilled back-to-back three-pointers to put the Tigers up by three. Marcus responded just 18 seconds later, but Marshall ripped off 11 straight points to close the half for a 29-18 lead going into the locker room.
A second-chance basket by Saugstad, a 12-footer in the lane by Sarah Buysse and a transition three-pointer from the left wing by Bennett highlighted that run, as the Tigers were in control.
"We were patient with our pressure and continued to stick with it," Westby said. "We were able to disrupt Willmar's ability to handle the ball at times and limited their looks at the basket. I thought we also rebounded fairly well and ran the floor well when the opportunities were there."
Marshall stayed in command to start the second half, outscoring Willmar 16-6 within the first four-plus minutes to open up a 45-24 lead at the 12:37 mark. VanLeeuwe, Beekman, Bennett, Saugstad and Jessica Baker (seven rebounds) each scored in that stretch to help the Tigers widen the gap.
The spread stayed right around 20 until Willmar closed the game with 11 of the last 13 points, creating a final margin of 60-49.
Marshall was 14-for-20 from the free-throw line, while Willmar was just 2-for-4 in that department. The Cardinals also turned the ball over 20 times, compared to just 11 giveaways by the Tigers.
"We played hard and did the things we needed to do to win the game," Westby said. "Now we set our sights on Hutchinson, who we played in the section finals last year (a 44-41 win for Marshall). They have had another fantastic season and are a very athletic team, so we will have our hands full going on the road to their place."