COLLEGEVILLE – Several times this season, New London-Spicer opponents have felt pretty confident heading into halftime after hanging close to the Wildcats in the first 18 minutes of the game.
But it usually isn’t long before those teams realize it isn’t going to be the night for an upset of Class AA’s No. 8-ranked team.
Morris/Chokio-Alberta held a three-point halftime lead against the Wildcats Saturday in the Section 6AA South Sub-Section semifinals but the Tigers were outscored 47-21 in the second half and NLS advanced with a 73-50 win at St. John’s University.
Taylor Thunstedt finished with 34 points and 9 assists and Olivia Setterberg scored 17 of her 19 points in the second half for the Wildcats, who will face Wright County Conference rival Litchfield for the sub-section championship a second-straight year on Tuesday at SJU.
“We fixed up some things on defense and did the things we’re capable of doing,” Thunstedt said. “We knew what we had to do, we just weren’t doing it (in the first half). We weren’t going to let that game go.”
NLS head coach Mike Dreier, who spent much of the first half agitated by his team’s play, spent just as much time applauding the Wildcats’ solid all-around play in the second half.
“We got off to a good start (after halftime),” Dreier said. “And we made a couple of shots right away. That makes a difference, too.”
Few teams have an answer for a formidable opponent that shoots 52 percent from the field overall, 42 percent from 3-point range and 71 percent from the foul line and the Tigers didn’t, either.
“They pushed the ball a lot more and they started hitting shots,” said the Tigers’ MaKenzie Smith, who had 7 points and 6 rebounds in her final prep game. “They’re a good team and they got hot.”
“It was kind of like our season that came with a lot of ups and downs,” MCA head coach Dale Henrichs said. “It was always a battle between injuries and people being gone. But we did well to fight to get into the second round of the playoffs.”
Tigers starter Katie Holzheimer, who led the team with 17 points on Saturday, was injured and out of the lineup for six games early in the season. The Tigers then lost key regular Tracy Meichsner with a knee injury for the final nine games of the season.
Meichsner, a sophomore, is expected to be back at 100 percent next season but Holzheimer and Smith graduate this spring and the Tigers will need new leaders to step forward, Henrichs said.
“I depended on them (Smith and Holzheimer) so much this year,” Henrichs said. “The thing I hate most about basketball is losing seniors. That’s the bad part.”
Dreier understands that better than almost any coach working, and he was pleased with his team’s performance against a quality opponent.
“They were prepared,” Dreier said of MCA. “Dale always has his teams ready so we feel good about the win. We’re still alive. That’s good.”
New London-Spicer 73, Morris/CA 50
MCA (17-10) ……29 21 – 50
NLS (23-4)………..26 47 – 73
MORRIS/CHOKIO-ALBERTA – 18-58 FG (6-19 3-pt); 8-11 FT; 28 rebounds; 17 fouls … Scoring: MaKenzie Smith 7, Beth Holland 12, Becca Holland 7, Katie Holzheimer 17, Nicole Strobel 2, Kaitlin Vogel 5 … 3-point shots: Holzheimer 5, Becca Holland 1 … Rebounds: Smith 6, Becca Holland 5 … Assists: Becca Holland 3 … Steals: Smith 3
NEW LONDON-SPICER – 24-46 FG (8-19 3-pt); 17-24 FTl 30 rebounds; 14 fouls … Scoring: Taylor Thunstedt 34, Reiley Ness 3, Lydia Kieft 6, Brianna Fredrick 2, Olivia Setterberg 19, Ashlyn Geister 9 … 3-point shots: NA … Rebounds: Geister 11, Setterberg 5 … Assists: Thunstedt 9, Fredrick 3 … Steals: Thunstedt 2.