Otter 2nd half D stops SabresPublished 11:06am Monday, March 4, 2013
There’s nothing quite like the playoff atmosphere and March Madness, and the Otter fans exemplify that as they outnumbered the fans for all three other teams at Alex Nemzek Fieldhouse to cheer their Otter girls basketball team on to a 53-38 victory over the Sartell Sabres Saturday night.
The gym was awash in Maroon and Gold and they had plenty to cheer about early into the game, as the Otters withstood some “stall-ball” and pulled out to an early 9-2 lead in the first five minutes of the game. But the Otters had trouble finding the basket for a stretch and fell behind 16-12 at the 6:39 mark. The game went back and forth for the rest of the half, with both teams having a tough time scoring and the first stanza ended at a 24-24 tie.
While usual high scorers Bailey Strand and Brianna Rasmusson were held to a total of four points, Hanna Swenson and Anna Monke went to work under the basket and scored 16 of the Otters 24 points. Now admit it, at 24-24 some of you fans were nervous, right? Surprising, and luckily, the team wasn’t. They knew what they had to do and came out of the halftime locker room very focused and determined to pressure Sartell for the next 18 minutes.
Led by Devonie Smith and Kathryn Sawtell at the point defense, they hounded and pressured Sartell’s point guard and leading scorer Ashton Haider until she frankly ran out of gas in the second half. Also, the help defense stopped the drives and the Otters held Sartell scoreless for the first seven minutes of the second half while they sprinted out to a 20 point lead.
If you remember back to when you played tic-tac-toe as a child, if neither the X or O person won the game, like the tied first half in this game, you’d say the “cat” got the game. In the second half, the Otters “Kat”, as her teammates call Kathryn Sawtell, got the game for the Otters. In a span of a couple minutes she got three breakaway lay-ups off defensive steals of her own and teammates and provided the spurt that brought the Otters to life. Sartell finally scored their first second half point at the free throw line at the 9:04 mark but by then it was too late. The second half had balanced scoring by all the Otter players as they out-scored Sartell 29-14 to win the game comfortably.
The Otter scoring was balanced throughout with five players scoring eight or more points. Hanna Swenson led the team with 15 and Anna Monke added 12.
Ashton Haider led Sartell with 15 and Kendra Rath had 10, but the rest of the team as a whole scored only 13 points.
The Otters out-rebounded Sartell 29-24, and rebounding was again balanced for the Otters. Strand had eight, Monke six, Swenson six and Rasmusson six as everyone chipped in to do their part on the boards. Monke led the Otters with six assists. The Otters had 14 turnovers and forced Sartell into 21 of them, none bigger than the ones where Sawtell got her break-away scoring opportunities.
You would consider this an off shooting night for the Otters as they shot only 34 percent from the floor, but they held Sartell to only 28 percent shooting and only four shots made from the floor in the second half. You have to love that Otter “D”, right fans? You shoot 34 percent on the night and still win by 15.
“Coaches always talk about team victories, but this game epitomizes that in my view,” stated Otter coach Brad Strand. “We had great defensive pressure by all players but especially in the second half our point defenders Dev and Kathryn really stymied their offense and wore out Haider. Kathryn came off the bench and although she was playing on a sore ankle her great defense led to a nice offensive burst for us. Hanna and Anna did the dirty work under the basket offensively and defensively and our guards Bailey and Bri joined them with equal rebounding numbers to make this a total team effort.”
The win gives the Otters their 28th consecutive win this season, without a loss, but more importantly puts them in the Section 8AAA championship game next Friday night to be held at St. John’s University. They will play Alexandria, who was a 50-40 winner over Thief River Falls in the other semi-final game. It will be the third consecutive Otter-Cardinal final over the last three years.
FERGUS FALLS (53) – H. Swenson 15, A. Monke 11, B. Rasmusson 9, B. Strand 8, K. Sawtell 8, K. Traiser 2.
SARTELL-ST. STEPHEN (38) – A. Haider 15, K. Raths 10, T. Mareck 6, R. Winter 3, H. Winter 2, C. Ross 2.