By Denny Weller
Free Press Staff Writer
There’s little doubt when push comes to shove for the Mankato East girls’ basketball team, senior guard Minnie Frederick will be in the middle of the action.
Friday night at the East gym, Frederick’s 15-point second-half burst along with a stingy defensive effort propelled East to a hard-fought 48-42 Big Nine Conference win over previously unbeaten Rochester John Marshall. Frederick finished with 18 points, six assists and four rebounds as the Cougars improved to 4-2 overall and 2-1 in the Big Nine.
“Minnie just took over for us in the second half,” East coach Mike Barger said. “She was going to the basket and getting our posts some open looks. She was controlling the offense by either running things in the half court or pushing it up the floor.
“We were getting into our high-low game better in the second half, and I thought our defense was outstanding. They match up very well with us because, like us, they have some solid post players.”
East, which languished through a 71-48 loss to Rochester Century a week ago in its last outing, dominated the boards 28-19 and turned the ball over only five times in the second half after committing 12 miscues over the opening 18 minutes. Junior forward Taylor Karge led the Cougars with seven rebounds while junior post Claire Ziegler grabbed six.
“We have a tall team and that comes in handy when we’re rebounding,” said Karge, who also put through 11 points. “We hustled all game long and our goal was to start playing good team defense.”
East opened up the game’s largest lead of 14-8 when Karge stole the ball and banked it in with 11:12 to go in the opening half. Ziegler had two inside baskets in the surge while Frederick chipped in with two foul shots and Abby Connell converted a twisting putback.
John Marshall (3-1 overall, 2-1 in Big Nine) then went on a 6-0 run — two layups from Haley Holtorf and a pair of free throws from Jamie Ruden — to draw even before Ruden’s six-point flurry and Kalli Fautsch’s three-point play helped the Rockets gain a 23-20 halftime advantage. Ruden, a 6-foot freshman center, led the Rockets with 16 points and six rebounds.
“We had a tough game against Century where we just weren’t in it mentally or physically,” Frederick said. “Both teams were really going after it defensively tonight and at halftime we talked about settling down and slowing it up a little bit. We did that in the second half and our intensity really shot up.”
East took a 33-30 lead midway through the second half when freshman post Allison Taylor came up with two second-chance baskets and Ziegler cut the cords on two foul shots. Ruden then hit a pair of medium-range jumpers as the Rockets took their final lead of the contest at 38-36 with 4:49 to go.
The game featured seven lead changes and six ties before back-to-back 3-pointers from Frederick put the Cougars in front to stay.
Frederick’s slicing drive through traffic and acrobatic layup with 1:47 remaining made it 44-40. After Ruden’s 8-footer in the paint pulled the Rockets within two, Karge’s steal after a missed East free throw resulted in a foul. Karge swished both foul shots and Frederick clinched things by splitting two free throws twice in the waning seconds.
East ended up 17 of 39 from the field for 43.5 percent compared to the Rockets’ 15 of 34 for 44.1 percent. John Marshall finished with 21 turnovers. Ziegler tallied 11 points for the Cougars, who play Tuesday at Austin.