Troopers, Cossacks advance
Troopers, Cossacks advance
Cards claim second straight district crown
By STU MERRY
They are still smiling in Garrison. The drought of being absent from a regional tournament berth is over.
In Max, Cossack fans are smiling, too. But their excitement at being part of the Region 5 girls basketball tournament Monday is tempered as one of the team’s stars, Whitney Huesers, suffered a leg injury late in the third quarter Monday night.
In play-in games, the Lady Troopers overpowered Wilton-Wing by 10, 52-42 in a come-from-behind win. Max took care of business against Underwood, extinguishing the Comets 60-39. Both teams advance to Monday’s Region 5 Tournament in Mandan.
The last time the Garrison girls were part of a regional tournament was in 2004. The drought is over in Max as well. The last time the Lady Cossacks appeared in a regional tournament was 2006.
Early on, in the Garrison-Wilton-Wing contest it looked like the Troopers would have to wait another year to get a shot at a regional tournament bid. With Garrison down 12 at intermission, Coach Sandra Essler said she told the girls to calm down, reminding the team that it had the skills to come back.
Her seniors took the lead – and took over the game. Sommer Johnson, who had just four points the first half lit the fire, canning a pair of threes midway through the third quarter. She ended the night with 17. McKenzie Matteson added the propellant, taking advantage of nearly every inside pass that came her way. With only six points to her credit in the first half, Kenz lit it up, laying in 10 points, while going 3-4 from the line to seal the deal. Garrison held court in the paint, out-rebounding the Miners 48-37. Kenzie pulled down 12, and Libbi Hasenwinkel grabbed another six.
Talking about senior leadership that rose to the top when it counted, Essler couldn’t say enough about her two stars.
“They played a tremendous tournament,” Essler said. “I wish I had a better word than outstanding.”
In two games, Kenzie tallied 39 points, while Sommer tossed in 35.
Essler praised Libbi for a quiet, yet strong game, doing her part to contain the Miners’ top gun, Sammi St. Clair.
“She (Libbi) denied her (St. Clair) the ball,” Essler said, adding that Libbi plays tremendous defense.
“She doesn’t get enough credit I don’t think ... ,” Essler said.
St. Clair only scored two of her 11 points in the second half.
Essler and Assistant Coach Loni Hall were still beaming long after the game was over. The win felt that good. The two shared that they are very excited for the girls.
“We just can’t stop smiling,” Essler said, with, of course, a grin. “We’ve had a lot of ups and downs through the years ... through this season … but we are excited for the team. We’ve come so close … this will give us something to build on for next year.”