By Shane Frederick
Free Press Staff Writer
More than 2 minutes into the second half Thursday night, the Mankato West girls basketball team trailed New Prague, the seventh-ranked team in Class AAA, by just three points.
“We were hanging with them,” Scarlets coach Kristin Krusemark said.
But West had trouble with the Trojans’ full-court press in the first half, and those struggles resurfaced before the Scarlets could grab momentum in the second. New Prague went on to win the nonconference game 60-39 at the West gym.
West committed 28 turnovers, most coming as it tried to get through the Trojans’ swarming defense.
“It’s tough to win a game when you have 30 turnovers,” Scarlets senior Cara Christiansen said. “The fact of the matter is we handled their pressure well in the back court but not in the front court..”
Christiansen led the Scarlets with 14 points and eight rebounds, one game after scoring her 1,000th career point in a win at Rochester John Marshall.
“I think the whole team came ready to play (the John Marshall) game,” Christiansen said. “We had our mindset on winning and controlling the whole game at each end. Our defense was really strong.”
Against New Prague, West got off to a solid start, leading 10-9 on Lauren Resner’s inside basket off an inbound play. Two more baskets in the paint by Christiansen, and the Scarlets had a 14-13 lead.
“Our man-to-man defense worked really hard to contain the two players we knew would have to stop (Lexi Ruehling and Annie Dittberner),” Krusemark said. “Lexi (Schoper) worked really hard on Dittberner.”
Midway through the first half, New Prague caught a spark and went on a 10-3 run. An inbound steal turned into a layup for Dittberner, and Ruehling hit twice to give the Trojans a 23-17 lead.
New Prague led 30-24 at halftime as Maizie Deihl made a layup at the buzzer.
Three free throws by Ashley Ross and Christiansen cut that to 30-27 early in the second half, but a 3-pointer by Stephanie Hanson started a 12-2 run.
Besides struggling with the press, West’s shooting went cold. The Scarlets were held without a second-half field goal until 3:28 remained in the game. By then New Prague led by 19 points.
“They have very quick guards and applied pressure the whole game,” Christiansen said.
Hanson led all scorers with 15 points, and Ruehling scored 14 for the Trojans.
For the Scarlets, Schoper scored 11 points with three steals and four assists. Kenzie Franke also had four assists. Malorie Veroeven had six points and five rebounds.
West (3-5) will host Owatonna Friday night.