By Matt Dahlseid
MARSHALL - The Dawson-Boyd girls' basketball team saw double-digit leads evaporate in each half, and even trailed briefly in the final minute of Saturday's game against Southwest Minnesota Christian at the R/A Facility at Southwest Minnesota State University. But thanks to some last-minute heroics by senior center Mari Lee, the Blackjacks escaped with a 55-52 win to remain unbeaten on the season.
Photo by Matt Dahlseid
Dawson-Boyd guard Justine Lee (20) releases a shot while surrounded by Southwest Minnesota Christian defenders and teammate Mari Lee (10) at SMSU’s R/A Facility on Satruday.
The Blackjacks (4-0 overall) trailed for the first time all game when SWC guard Jennifer Schmidt hit both of her free throws after getting fouled on a putback attempt with 52.6 seconds remaining. A little later, SWC's Savannah Tinklenberg came up with a steal and was on her way to a fastbreak layup until Lee swatted the shot away. Lee then drew a foul and hit both free throws to put her team up 53-52 with 28.1 seconds left. She stole an interior pass on SWC's next possession and was fouled again, and again hit two free throws with 8.0 seconds on the clock. A final 3-point attempt by SWC's Amber Pater was off the mark, sealing with win for the Blackjacks.
The 5-foot-11 Lee finished with a game-high 23 points to go with five rebounds and three steals. She made 8 of 10 free throws, coming up clutch at the line when her team needed her most.
Dawson-Boyd head coach Randy Haakenson said it was a shining performance for a player who hasn't always had confidence in her abilities.
Hannah Van Dyke 1 0-0 3, Tianna Top 1 0-0 2, Amber Pater 9 4-7 22, Morgan Van Hulzen 2 0-0 4, Jennifer Schmidt 6 4-5 17, Kelly Tinklenberg 2 2-4 4. Totals 21 8-13 52. 3-pointers 2 Rebounds 32 (Pater 9, Schmidt 7, Van Dyke 6) Assists 13 (Pater 4, Van Dyke 4) Steals 14 (Schmidt 4, Van Dyke 3) Blocks 3 Turnovers 29 Total Fouls 13.
Alisa Hill 1 0-0 2, Mari Lee 7 8-10 23, Nicole Jurgenson 3 0-0 6, Justine Lee 6 0-1 13, Katarina Kuhlmann 2 0-0 7, Kelly Husby 2-3 1-2 5. Totals 21 9-13 55. 3-pointers 4 (Kuhlmann 2, J. Lee, M. Lee) Rebounds 24 (Husby 6, M. Lee 5) Assists 17 (Kuhlmann 7, J. Lee 6) Steals 13 (Husby 3, Jurgenson 3, M. Lee 3) Blocks 3 Turnovers 26 Total Fouls 14.
Halftime Score: Dawson-Boyd 30, SWC 28.
"I've always told Mari that she doesn't know how good she can be," he said. "I remember asking her last year, I said, 'If you can have your choice between playing volleyball or basketball at the next level, what would you choose?' And she said, 'Neither, because I'm not good enough.' I've never believed that about Mari. She doesn't know how good she can be. I think if she's aggressive, she can play with anyone in our conference, bar none."
Dawson-Boyd started the game on a tear, forcing multiple SWC turnovers with their full-court pressure and getting easy scores on the fastbreak. They were up 10-2 within the first few minutes of the game, and eventually built a 21-11 lead after a three-pointer by sophomore guard Justine Lee from the left wing with 8:52 left in the first half.
SWC (2-2) settled down and took better control of the ball, and post player Amber Pater started to take over. She scored 10 of her team-high 22 points in the first half to help cut the lead down to 30-28 by halftime.
Dawson-Boyd built its lead back up to double digits with a 13-2 run to start the second half. Mari Lee and Katarina Kuhlmann hit back-to-back 3s during the run, and Justine Lee converted on a driving layup to close the run. Justine Lee finished the game with 13 points and six assists, while Kuhlmann had six points and seven assists.
The two guards did well distributing the ball, but they also had difficulty executing in the final nine minutes and combined for 14 of the team's 26 turnovers in the game. The sloppy play by the Blackjacks allowed Pater and the Eagles to gradually sneak back into contention.
Haakenson said that Justine Lee wasn't feeling well Saturday because of the flu and usually takes better care of the ball, but he hopes his talented young guard can use Saturday's performance as a learning experience.
"Last year as a freshman her assist to turnover ratio, she had more assists, which means she takes care of the ball very well," he said. "Today, she probably didn't take care of the ball as well. She needs a little help, too, and we always tell her that in some situations she's going to have to have some help handling the basketball.
"I think the bottom line is she is a sophomore, and although she's experienced and was an all-conference player last year in the Camden, she still has a grade of learning. It's good. It's good for her to have good games, and also to struggle a little bit and find out (what to work on)."
The Eagles used Dawson-Boyd's turnovers and their own second-chance opportunities to eventually take the lead with under a minute to go. SWC held a 32-24 edge on the boards and had 14 offensive rebounds.
"A lot of the problems I feel we'll have this year are going to be against physical basketball teams," Haakenson said. "If we can learn to be a physical basketball team, we're going to be OK. Southwest Minnesota Christian had three ladies that were strong inside players, and if any one of the three were to have a big game, that wouldn't surprise me. We certainly didn't have an answer for Pater today."
The Blackjacks didn't have a player who could stop Pater, but the Eagles didn't have a player who could stop Mari Lee. Her late flourish of key plays were the difference in Dawson-Boyd's win and have the Blackjacks off to their first 4-0 start since the 2005-06 season. They will try to get to 5-0 Tuesday when they travel to face E.C.H.O. Charter.