Girls basketball: K-W dodges P-E-M bullet in 1AA final
Kenyon-Wanamingo felt the relief of dodging a bullet in the final minute, while Plainview-Elgin-Millville agonized over a game that slipped away.
K-W scored its last seven points from the free-throw line and hung on for a 46-42 victory against P-E-M in a Section 1AA championship game that was thrilling to the finish Thursday night at Mayo Civic Center Arena.
The Knights' 20th straight win wasn't secured until a missed shot by P-E-M with 11 seconds remaining sailed out-of-bounds without hitting the rim, and K-W's Siri Sviggum made two free throws with 9.6 seconds left.
P-E-M battled back from an eight-point deficit early in the second half and took a brief two-point lead, but a couple of missed shots and a couple of crucial turnovers in the last minute stopped the Bulldogs from notching another playoff upset.
P-E-M was coming off a 3-point win over No. 3-ranked Chatfield, but the Bulldogs couldn't quite get past No. 2 K-W, which will take a 29-1 record to the state tournament next week.
"Right after the game you start thinking, 'what if this happened, or what if that,' " said P-E-M coach Jason Melbostad. "The girls played their hearts out, but the ball just didn't bounce our way."
The game was close throughout as two teams that are accustomed to scoring 65 points per game were reigned in by tight defense at both ends.
K-W led 26-20 at halftime and took the game's biggest lead at 30-22 when Sviggum returned an offensive rebound for a basket early in the second half.
But P-E-M reeled off a 7-0 run at that point sparked by sophomore guard Sarah Hart, who returned an offensive rebound for a basket and swished a 3-pointer from the top of the key.
"We've been down before, but our girls just don't panic," Melbostad said.
P-E-M led 37-35 when Karli Gilbeck returned an offensive rebound for a basket with 6:45 left. But K-W's Audra Clark promptly tied it with a strong drive to the basket, and a minute later she made a steal and a transition layup to give K-W a lead it never relinquished.
"There were a couple of times in the second half where I felt we were going to make a run and get a bigger lead, but the shots just didn't go," K-W coach Brent Lurken said. "The defenses were tough; each possession was so crucial."
Lurken said that Megan Clark's defense on P-E-M's Hart was a "a huge key", although Hart and Gilbeck each scored 15 for the Bulldogs. Rau had a team-high eight rebounds and four points.
"We're upset that we lost," said Rau, P-E-M's only senior starter who will play college basketball at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. "We put up a good fight and played a tough game, but we just fell short. They're big and tough, and their defense is very good."
Audra Clark scored 12, Sviggum 10 and freshman Mara Quam came off the bench to add 11 for K-W, which shot better (42 percent to 30 percent).
"We were in a position to win at the end of the game, that's all you can ask for," Melbostad said. "We had a good year. We won 25 games and we're young; we'll be solid again next year."
Kenyon-Wanamingo 46, P-E-M 42
Chloe Holtz 2, Chaning Cordova 0, Tessa Hubbard 2, Caitlin Schad 0, Morgan Shindelar 4, Hayley Rau 4, Karlie Gilbeck 15, Sarah Hart 15.
Other stats:Team 16-53 FG (30 percent), 22 rebounds, 11 turnovers, 15 fouls (no foul-outs); Hart 7 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 assists; Rau 8 rebounds; Schad 2 rebouns, 1 steal; Hubbard 2 rebounds, 1 steal; Holt 1 rebound, 1 steal.
Mara Quam 11, Meg Clark 2, Audra Clark 12, Siri Sviggum 10, Savannah Bleess 0, Brittney Flom 2, Emily Ashland 2, Megan Quam 7.
Other stats:Team 17-40 FG (42 percent), 29 rebounds, 16 turnovers, 14 fouls (no foul-outs); Meg. Quam 8 rebounds, 1 steal; Sviggum 6 rebounds, 2 steals; A. Clark 5 rebounds; M. Clark 5 rebounds, 1 steal; Flom 2 blocks, 2 rebounds; Mara Quam 2 rebounds.
Halftime:K-W 26, P-E-M 20.
Free throws:P-E-M 6-7, K-W 11-15.
Three-point goals:P-E-M 4 (Hart 3, Gilbeck 1), K-W 1 (Mara Quam 1).