Owls 40, Parkers Prairie 37
The P.E. Center on the U-Morris campus became a hub for March Madness Tuesday night with Hancock meeting Parkers Prairie in girls hoops. At stake was the 6A-South title. "South" denotes sub-section.
Hancock had something special to prove Tuesday. The Owls had to "slay the dragon," as it were, because Parkers Prairie has been a pesky obstacle for them. The Owls were eliminated by the Panthers the last two years in post-season. The task wasn't going to be easy in 2011.
A hard-fought game developed with Parkers owning a one-point lead at halftime, 17-16.
But when the two halves were done, it was the Owls and their jubilant fans who could savor victory. By outscoring Parkers by four in the second half, 24-20, coach Jodi Holleman's crew came out on top 40-37.
Hancock girls basketball sits atop 6A-South. More important business lies ahead. The Owls will get re-focused for their section championship battle which will be at Concordia of Moorhead. They'll battle Ada-Borup at 7 p.m. on Friday, March 11.
Are the Owls on the path to state? Fans are savoring the challenge lying ahead and the possibilities.
Parkers Prairie was a significant obstacle. The Owls gained fuel with an eight-point run in the late pivotal minutes against Parkers. That run resulted in the Owls sitting in an apparently comfortable position, up 40-34 with 35 seconds left. Ilissa Koehl was a key Owl in the decisive run, but impressive as these heroics were, the game wasn't "in the bag" yet.
The Panthers got this far by showing some resilient attributes. Tamara Schmidt of the Panthers executed a three-point play. This was now a one-possession game with under 30 seconds left.
Some tense moments suddenly unfolded as the Owls misfired in trying to inbound the ball. The ball was snatched up by the Panthers. The pressure was on as the Panthers desperately sought a three-pointer or a three-point play.
Two three-point shot attempts were off the mark. But the suspense wasn't over as Parkers inbounded on the Hancock end for one last try. They got off a decent shot attempt. It clanged off the rim and Owl Aria Walstad gained possession. The buzzer sounded with Walstad having fallen to the court but in secure possession of the ball and the HHS victory. What an outcome!
The Owls had a balanced scoring attack led by Illissa Koehl with eleven points. Kendra Schmidgall, whose layup in the last two minutes gave a key push, scored nine. Courtney Greiner also scored nine. Shae Brown scored six points and Walstad five.
Schmidgall and Greiner led in rebounds with seven and five respectively. Walstad was tops in assists with three and in steals with two.
Madison Dorn led the Panthers with 14 points.
The Owls own a sparkling 25-2 record as they prepare for the Friday challenge at Concordia of Moorhead. (Yours truly wonders if they still serve such terrific bratwurst there.)
Owls 50, Hillcrest Academy 33
The sub-section semis story for Hancock had Hillcrest of Fergus Falls as the opponent on Saturday, March 5. This game too was played at the "big floor" of UMM. Taking advantage of numerous freethrows, the Owls got past the Comets in a pretty routine way. Coach Holleman's athletes made 25 of 35 freethrow opportunities as they downed Hillcrest 50-33.
The Comets weren't exactly streaking in the first half as they were held to seven points by the determined HHS defense. The Owls meanwhile scored 19 first half points.
The Owls' freethrows made up for a not real scintillating performance in field goal shooting. The numbers in field goals were 12 of 39 with one successful "three." Kendra Schmidgall made the three-pointer.
Courtney Greiner set the pace in scoring with 15 points, barely edging Schmidgall and Illissa Koehl each of whom scored 14. Aria Walstad, Olivia Koehl and Serandon Bigalke each scored two points and Abby Ascheman one.
Schmidgall attacked the boards for ten rebounds and she was followed in this category by Greiner with nine and Koehl with five. Walstad was the top assist producer with five. Walstad and Schmidgall each had four steals to lead here, and Greiner and Shae Brown each stole the ball three times.
Rhoda Christenson was Hillcrest's top scorer with 14 points.
Owls 64, Wheaton-Herman-Norcross 51
Top seed Hancock lived up to its status on Thursday, March 3, with a comfortable win over Wheaton-Herman-Norcross in 6A-South's opening round. The Owls had the privilege of playing this game in their own gym, where they scored 64 points to WHN's 51.
The Owls had a sense of command at halftime, up 38-22.
The success was in spite of the fact that WHN showed real sharp three-point shooting. The visiting Warriors made six shots from beyond that three-point stripe. Roseanna Wilts excelled with four of those makes. Tracy Boehmlehner had the other two. Surprisingly Wilts was not WHN's leading scorer. That distinction was owned by Shaela TeKrony with 16 points.
The Owls' scoring charge was led by Kendra Schmidgall who poured in 20 points. Schmidgall did quite fine with her three-point shooting eye as she sank three shots from that distance. Shae Brown and Aria Walstad each made a three-pointer. Add 'em up and there are five successful Owl threes, nearly matching WHN on this night of "bombs away" shooting.
Walstad and Courtney Greiner each scored 13 points. Brown's point total was nine. Rounding out the list we have Illissa Koehl with seven points and Abby Ascheman with two.
Schmidgall's four rebounds put her tops in that category. Walstad dished out six assists followed by Brown and Koehl each with three. Walstad stole the ball four times and Schmidgall three.
It was a night for the Owls to retire to their home locker room with optimism and satisfaction. From there they moved on to UMM's big floor for continued 6A-South conquests until they finally could celebrate the #1 distinction.
Can they celebrate #1 in section come Friday in Moorhead? Fans are looking ahead in anticipation, and don't forget to inquire about those brats at the concession counters.
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - firstname.lastname@example.org