MANKATO — Last time she faced Mankato West, Claire Ziegler scored only 12 points. Not a bad game, but well below her season average of 18.0 points.
And Mankato East lost that night, which also bothered Ziegler. On Tuesday, that was her motivation.
“I knew this could be the last time I played against West,” Ziegler said. “I knew I had to step up and play hard.”
Ziegler, a 5-foot-11 senior who will be playing at Minnesota State next season, had 33 points and 15 rebounds as East defeated West 66-51 in a Big Nine Conference girls basketball game at Bresnan Arena. The victory avenged a 78-68 loss to the Scarlets in December.
“(Ziegler) worked hard like she always does,” East coach Mike Barger said. “We count on her rebounding and defense.
“Teams collapse on her, and that makes it easier to move the ball around. And she’s so good at reading the ball off the rim, and she’s so strong that she can go back up and put it in.”
Ziegler had two long scoring runs of her own. She scored eight straight to help the Cougars go up 11-5 early in the game. The lead grew to 20-12 on Torey Richard’s third 3-pointer at 9:05.
However, it was her basket in the final seconds of the first half that provided a nine-point margin heading into the locker room.
“That took away some of our momentum,” West coach Kristin Krusemark said. “It’s the little things that have hurt us, and you have to get a hand in her face on that last shot.”
Ziegler had an 11-point run midway through the second half as the Cougars began to pull away. In the first meeting, West used a 27-4 run over the final nine minutes to grab the victory.
“That was one of the biggest things we talked about at halftime,” Ziegler said. “Last time, they took the game away from us. We knew we had to play a strong second half.”
Richards scored 16 points, hitting four 3-pointers in the first half, and Taylor Karge had 12 points and eight rebounds. Only four players scored for the Cougars (11-11, 8-8 in Big Nine).
“We knew we had to play well to win this one,” Barger said. “I thought we played well defensively, especially in the second half.”
West (6-17, 5-11) was led by Sarah Buryska with 19 points, making five 3-pointers. Lexi Schoper scored 16 points, all in the second half.
East plays Friday at Albert Lea. The Cougars have not won or lost more than two consecutive games this season.
West, which has lost nine straight and 10 of the last 11, plays Thursday at home against Rochester Century.