Rochester Mayo never fully recovered from a nightmarish first half, Mankato East played like it has recently, and the end result was the Spartans suffered their first girls basketball loss of the season on Friday night.
East, which beat second-place Big Nine Conference team Mankato West earlier this week, knocked off Mayo 60-54 at McNish Gymnasium.
It was a massive change from the teams' last meeting. On Jan. 21, Mayo went to the East gym and blasted the Cougars by 34 points.
What a difference a month-and-a-half can make.
Mayo knew full well this would be a different Cougars team this second meeting.
"There is no chance that we took East lightly tonight," Mayo third-year coach Ryan Carpenter said. "They just beat West and West is a really good team. They also beat Red Wing and Red Wing is a good team. They are a good team and we knew that. But it was just an off night for us and that happens in the course of a season in high school sports."
Mayo did not at all resemble the team that had earned a No. 6 Class AAAA ranking and entered a spotless 12-0. It was fumbly with the ball, it missed a bunch of close-in shots, it got beat up on the offensive glass, it turned the ball over more than it's accustomed and it shot poorly from the free throw line, converting just 19 of 29 attempts.
Its defense was also often taken advantage of in the first half, when East kept finding openings on the perimeter of Mayo's zone and then buried 3-point shots.
East drained six of them in the opening stanza and it helped it establish a 31-27 intermission lead.
After that, though Mayo started to get things together some and built a brief lead, it never could sustain that solid play.
It was -- as they say -- one of those nights.
"When you lose three super-important phases of the game, it is really hard to overcome that," Carpenter said. "When you don't shoot well from the free throw line, you get out-worked on the glass and you don't finish well at the rim. . .you can overcome one of those things, you can maybe overcome two of those things, but you lose all three of those and it is really, really hard to win against a good team."
East is that. Not only are the Cougars good, but easily the most improved Big Nine bunch since the season started.
"We have a better understanding of roles now, what our strengths are and how to play together," said East coach Rob Stevermer, whose team was led by junior guard Mackenzie Schweim's 21 points. Fellow guard Macy Birkholz had 14 points and hit four 3-pointers .
"It is a credit to our girls who took a big lump (from Mayo) early in the season, but have now learned to play together and be successful."
Mayo, which never had any of its players get in a real rhythm offensively, was led by sophomore guard Hannah Hanson's 18 points. Spartans star 6-foot-3 center Anna Miller, who'd been on a tear all season, was limited to 16 points, five below her average.
Shots she'd routinely convert in close just weren't going in with any regularity Friday. Miller has been around long enough to know things can go that way occasionally and that there is no reason to panic.
However, she is sure this loss won't soon be forgotten, nor does she want it to be.
"It can be a little bit of motivation for us," Miller said.
Mayo is now 10-1 in the Big Nine and 12-1 overall. East is 10-2, 12-3.
Mankato East 60, Mayo 54
MANKATO EAST (60)
Sydney Prybylla 2 P; Lexi Karge 6 P; Mackenzie Schweim 21 P, 2 3-PT; Peyton Stevermer 9 P; Isabelle Schott 3 P; Madelyn Olinger 3 P, 1 3-PT; Macy Birkholz 14 P, 4 3-PT; Ellie Edberg 2 P.
Hannah Hanson 18 P; Taylor Hill 3 P, 1 3-PT; Mullk Hammadelniel 7 P, 1 3-PT; Lynnsey Hady 10 P, 1 3-PT; Anna Miller 16 P.
Halftime: EAST 31, MAYO 27.
Free throws: EAST 15-28, MAYO 19-29.
Three-point goals: EAST 7, MAYO 3.