Waterville-Elysian-Morristown wanted to put the defensive pressure on Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial to take control of the game early in Friday night’s McDonald’s Girls Crusader Classic at the Fitzgerald gym.
That’s exactly what the Buccaneers did as they held the Knights to seven first half points en route to a 61-29 win.
WEM (5-2) advances to play Mankato Loyola in the championship game today at 3:45 p.m. at Fitzgerald Gym.
“I thought we were being really aggressive in the beginning (on defense),” WEM senior guard Madison Pratt said. “We kind of lost it when we got our lead, but after halftime, I think we brought it back. We try to be really aggressive, and I think we did pretty good at that.”
That aggressive defense led to an early 10-1 advantage. Pratt and sophomore guard Tierney Winter were the catalysts in a 10-0 spurt to put WEM up 22-4 with 8:15 left in the opening half. Winter had a pair of buckets, including a steal and lay-in, and assisted on another, while Pratt had a basket and an assist as the Buccaneers took early control of the game.
“The early plan was to get a lead, put some pressure on, force some turnovers, maybe get some easy layups and we were able to do that,” Bucs coach Gabe Hauer said.
Pratt and Winter led 12 Buccaneers’ scorers with 11 points apiece. Hannah Steinhaus and Kalley Kendall each added eight.
“For me, I was shooting, and they actually went in; that doesn’t usually happen a lot,” Pratt said. “We’re not really a shooting team on the outside, but tonight we did pretty good at that.”
Pratt led off the second half with a 3 and later had a block and went coast-to-coast for a lay-in that gave WEM a 44-14 lead with 12:30 remaining. They would coast from there.
Ashlie Wiens led LCWM in scoring with ten. Rachel Sonnabend added six.
With the Knights now behind them, the Bucs’ game tonight against Loyola will not be an easy task.
“They’re a team that is coming off a state tournament appearance and brought a lot of people back,” Hauer said. “They’re obviously a very tough team so we’ll try to do our best to bring a little pressure and stay in the game.”
LCWM (0-6) plays Le Sueur-Henderson in the third-place game today at 2 p.m. at the Fitzgerald gym.