MANKATO — Junior forward Claire Ziegler netted her 1,000th point Saturday afternoon as a diversified Mankato East girl’s basketball team moved one step closer to a Big Nine Conference title with a 67-51 win over Winona.
While Ziegler showed off her tremendous around-the-basket skills in firing in a team-best 19 points to go along with 10 rebounds, four assists and three blocked shots, it was the Cougars’ role players — senior guard Marta Anderson, senior wing Bria Armstrong and freshman center Allison Taylor — who were key ingredients in East’s 18th win in 21 starts.
“Those players played very well for us today, they’re like defensive hawks for us,” Ziegler said. “We knew Winona had some good post players we we had to come out strong. It was a little iffy at first and things didn’t go the way we planned. We knew it would be tough to rebound against them but we went in there hard. ... We worked very hard defensively.”
Winona (11-9 overall, 9-4 in Big Nine) got a layup off the opening tip from Maggie Messmann and opened up an 8-3 lead on 6-foot junior Ellen Blacklock’s follow-up basket four minutes into the game. Armstrong then came off the bench to drill a pair of 3-pointers off the left wing before Ziegler’s driving left-hander off the glass trimmed the Winhawks’ advantage to 12-11.
Armstrong left the contest moments later with a left leg injury, but the Cougars (12-1 in Big Nine) continued with the spark she generated in building a 42-22 halftime cushion. East, which had five turnovers in the opening three minutes, connected on 10 of its first 11 shots, with senior guard Minnie Frederick’s pull-up 3-pointer and Taylor’s 14-footer putting the Cougars in front 26-16.
Ziegler’s third point of the game — a foul shot that received a friendly bounce — gave her 1,000 points and enabled her to join brother Brody in the execlusive 1,000-point club. Ziegler’s strong moves to the hoop produced 11 first-half points while junior forward Taylor Karge scored nine points and Taylor chipped in six.