The Rush City Tigers remained unbeaten Monday night, defeating the Pine City Dragons for the 2nd time this year 66-45. I thought Pine City played pretty well though the game stats don’t support that impression particularly well. But I thought…
The Rush City Tigers remained unbeaten Monday night, defeating the Pine City Dragons for the 2nd time this year 66-45. I thought Pine City played pretty well though the game stats don’t support that impression particularly well. But I thought Pine City played pretty well. And, Rush City fans (and a certain coach) didn’t think the Tigers played very well, at least not on defense. (They give up an average of 26 ppg, and held Pine City to 19 points the 1st time out.) Regardless, they won by 21. And, did I mention, remained unbeaten?
And, did I mention, did it with one hand tied behind their backs? OK, not literally. But, 6-1 sophomore post Jamie Guptill, who averages about 15-16 ppg, played with one hand. She left the game early on, wincing and holding her left hand. She returned a minute later with her hand taped up and ended up scoring just 2 2nd half points on 1-of-7 shooting with one rebound.
5-11 sophomore forward Shawna Mell and 5-7 sophomore guard Elena Herberg more than picked up the slack, however, scoring 25 2nd half points on 9-of-16 FG, for a total of 39 points between them on the night.
“Defensively we did lose some girls tonight,” said coach Joe Nelson afterward. “We don’t usually do that. And, we’re usually more in sync. But, they (Pine City) were really fired up to play us, and I’m really happy with the way we came through and played.”
Pine City stayed close through most of the 1st half, coming back from an early 7-2 deficit to lead 13-12 at 7:30 as freshman guard Lily Wilson and 8th grader and coach’s daughter Ellie Hasz hit a pair of 3s. But, from 15-all, Rush City pulled out to a 29-20 half-time lead as Guptill and Mell each scored twice.
Pine City kept the Rush City lead around 10-12 halfway through the 2nd half when they went cold and failed to score for about 9 minutes down to 2:45, by which time it was out of control at 59-40. Herberg had 14 2nd half points by then. After that it was just a formality.
“We ran the offense a little better (in the 2nd half),” Nelson said. “We had a little more patience. I thought we played a little bit better D (too). We concentrated on their #11 (point guard Lily Wilson) a little bit better and frustrated her a little better than we did in the 1st half.”
Herberg finished with 24 points on 10-of-22 shots. One thing that made Rush City look and play better in the 2nd half was Herberg’s shot selection. She was 3-of-13 in the 1st half, forcing up some 3s (she made 2-of-6). She made 7-of-9 FG in the 2nd, including 1-for-1 3-pointers. Mell had 15 points on 3-of-9 shooting with 9 boards, 3 steals, 3 assists and 2 blocks. Wilson led Pine City with 13 points on 4-of-13 shooting with 5 turnovers. Hasz scored 7 points on 2-of-7 shooting but added 13 rebounds and 2 steals.
Rush City outscored Pine City 21-5 on 2nd chancers. Pine City got 7 offensive rebounds. They scored off 3 of them. Rush City blocked all of the other 4 put-back attempts. Rush City also outscored Pine City 18-2 off turnovers for a total edge of 39-7 on special teams.
Looking ahead, Nelson said, “At the start of the year we didn’t set any team goals. One game at a time, and let’s see what happens. If you set goals, sometimes you don’t set ‘em high enough, or you can set them too low and it’s not realistic. The way we’re playing now, and I’ve had a few people tell us we can play with anybody, and if we can get through the subsection, because they’re looking for us—(opponents like) Cathedral and Milaca but then anything can happen. It’s a one-game playoff, if you can win that subsection, then it’s a one-game playoff.”