Experience, confidence lead Otters to winPublished 9:32am Thursday, March 20, 2014 Updated 11:34am Thursday, March 20, 2014
A few nerves, a little bit of experience and a lot of confidence went into Wednesday’s 61-52 victory for the Fergus Falls girls basketball team.
After having high expectations, but falling short in Class AAA quarterfinals of the state tournament, the Otters were back with a mindset that it had something to prove.
The first half began with a shock to the Otters system as the KoMets were able to keep pace with the athletic Fergus girls.
The seesaw battle saw Kasson-Mantorville jump to the early lead, but Fergus would quickly recover as it held the lead for the rest of the half.
The team struggled to find its rhythm in the first half as senior forward Anna Monke played two minutes due to early foul trouble.
The slack would be picked up by senior center Kristin Traiser and junior Kathryn Sawtell were able to hold freshman standout Kristin Scott to 10 first half points.
“How about Kristin Traiser in the first half,” Otters’ coach Brad Strand said. “Playing without Anna, Kristin was gassed. She was playing with two fouls and was able to hold her own, that was just huge.
Kathryn played her best game in the section title, but she played great today and is one person who steps on the court and fulfills her role on the team.”
When the dust had settled on a wild first half, Fergus Falls held a slim 31-29 lead going into the break.
Bailey Strand provided the spark for the Otters as she scored 17 points in the first half.
The Otters collected 15 rebounds, but lost the battle down low as Kasson-Mantorville would employ Scott’s height to pull down 10 of the team’s 26 first half rebounds.
The second half saw the Otters come out with more focus and tougher on defense as coach Strand switched to a zone.
Fergus was able to force the KoMets to work outside as the Otters took away Scott and her presence underneath.
Monke also returned to the court in the second half and never left as she picked up one additional foul, but kept the KoMets out on the perimeter.
Seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, the Otters began to pull away from Kasson-Mantorville as Fergus held a double digit lead for most of the second half. Fergus’ senior guard Brianna Ramusson would provide a secondary scoring outlet as she dropped in 11 of her 16 points in the second half.
The Otters sealed the victory as it converted a perfect eight-for-eight from the free throw line as the KoMets were forced to foul.
Bailey Strand led the Otter girls with 23 points, while Rasmusson added 16 points of her own.
Traiser recorded a double-double with 11 points and 12 rebounds.
Fergus Falls finished the game shooting an uncharacteristic 32.8 percent fromthe field, but made 18-of-25 shots from the free throw line. Kasson-Mantorville continued its dominance underneath the rim as they outrebounded the Otters 52-40.
Coach Strand credited Kasson-Mantorville’s defensive play for making it difficult on the girls shooting.
“Their defense and their post presence altered some shots, but it’s also some nerves that come with being in the state tournament.”
The Otters will take on the No. 3 seeded Marshall Tigers, a 68-44 winner of Chisago Lakes Area, in the semifinal at 2 p.m. today at Williams Arena.