By Reece Hemmesch Special to The Free Press
The Mankato Free Press
---- — ST. CLAIR — Seniors Chloe Hanson and Katelyn Weber combined for 29 points as St. Clair downed Legacy Christian Academy 51-42 in the opening round of the 2013 St. Clair Girls Holiday Basketball Classic.
The Cyclones not only ran the tempo with their press, but also dominated in the paint, crashing the boards and getting numerous second chances while also holding the Lions to just one look per drive. The Cyclones led 36-22 at the break after scoring the first 13 points in the game but LCA stayed strong, outscoring St. Clair 20-15 in the second half to get to within striking distance.
With the tempo on their side, the Cyclones used their stifling full-court defense to their advantage, leaving the Lions vulnerable to quick turnovers and uneven matchups the entire game. St. Clair’s aggressiveness was the key, but also hurt the Cyclones as they struggled with foul trouble in both halves. The teams combined for 40-plus fouls.
The Lions had a chance late to make the game more interesting, but could not get the big shot as Hanson converted three free throws down the stretch to keep LCA out of range.
“We talked about coming out with a lot of energy and I thought we did in the first half,” St. Clair head coach Brian Noyes said. “Unfortunately we got a little too aggressive with our full-court pressure and gave them a lot of scoring opportunities at the free throw line.
“But all in all being our first game after the Christmas break I thought our kids came out played really hard to get the win. We don’t have a lot of size so we try and make that up with our quickness and that’s kind of the strength to our team. We like to get after people and play at a high tempo.”
The Cyclones (6-3) committed 14 first-half fouls as four different players had three-plus fouls in the game. That included Hanson, who scored 13 of her 16 points in the first half before sitting out nine minutes of the second half with four fouls. With Hanson out, the Lions slowly began to mount a comeback as their perimeter shooting picked up.
After Hanson and Weber, freshman Hailey Embacher added nine points and Olivia Drummer and Danielle Boettcher tallied five apiece for the Cyclones. For LCA (1-6), freshman Kayla Ruf scored 11 and junior Lexi Weddle added 10.
The victory keeps St. Clair in the winners bracket, as it will face the winner of Maple River vs. Canby tonight at 6:30 p.m. in a semifinal game. Noyes expects his Cyclones to play hard no matter who they face.
“There are a lot of good teams in the tournament so we’re excited to play whoever shows up.”