The West Central Area Knights girls basketball team made its first-ever trip to the Minnesota State High School Basketball Tournament last Tuesday night and, despite a tough loss, 76-71, to the Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa Jaguars, proved that they can play with and beat anyone in the tournament. The game was played in Perham.
The Knights led the game for nearly the entire first half before BBE had a couple of big plays to score four points in the last few seconds of the half to grab the lead, 34-33. WCA gave the Jags all they could handle in the second half as well. The game was a complete back-and-forth battle until BBE began to build a lead with about eight minutes to play. WCA trailed by eight points with six minutes to play and BBE stretched it to a 13-point lead at one point, but the Knights would not give in.
WCA cranked up their defensive pressure yet another notch and got some big stops on one end of the floor and then, on offense, eighth grader Maya Foslien got hot from the perimeter to bring the Knights right back into the game. Foslien scored eight of her 11 points in the game’s final few minutes to help get the Knights back to within two points, 71-73.
With 24 seconds left and the Knights down by two points, WCA rebounded a missed free throw and had the ball with a chance to go down and tie the game or win it. Unfortunately, BBE’s defense stepped up and forced a Knights’ turnover. After a quick foul and one made free throw, the Knights got another rebound on a missed free throw and had a chance to go down and tie the game. However, the Jags forced another turnover and then made a pair of free throws to put the game on ice.
“I am so proud of the girls for their ability to battle through some really tough situations,” said WCA Coach Eric Schoenbauer. “They didn’t get rattled when things didn’t go our way right before halftime and showed great determination to get themselves right back into the game after falling behind by double digits late in the game. They really showed what they’re made of!”
“We fought so hard tonight and gave ourselves chances to win,” said Schoenbauer. “Tonight, it just didn’t work out in our favor. Despite this tough loss, the season was amazing and this group of girls was amazing too. It was a real treat to work with such a fun and dedicated group!”
The Knights were led by Lexi Bright with 26 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and a steal; Liz Rustan had 14 points, seven rebounds, two steals, two blocked shots and an assist; Maya Foslien had 11 points, two rebounds and two steals; Claire Stark had nine points, seven rebounds and a blocked shot; Brynn Fernholz had four points and two rebounds; Macy Grosz had four points, four rebounds and a steal; Sydney Ulrich had three points, two rebounds and a steal; Brooke Anderson had one assist in the game; Halle Foslien had three rebounds; and Addison Staples had three rebounds and two assists.
The Knights made 23-62 shots for 37 percent including 9-23 from three-point range. They were 16-25 from the free throw line and won the rebounding battle, 44-40. BBE shot 24-56 for 43 percent including 3-7 from long range. They were 25-41 on free throws.
The Knights wrapped up their season with an overall mark of 17-6 and an amazing trip to the state tournament