BY KRIS BEUCKENS
For the first time in the history of WCA schools, a Knights’ basketball team is headed to the State Tournament. Last Tuesday night, the #3 seeded Lady Knights narrowly defeated the #1 seeded Hancock Owls, 50-49, to win the South Sub-Section and earn a spot in the Section 6A Championship game. Two days later, the Knights headed to Fergus Falls to take on the North Sub-Section Champions and number two state-ranked Henning Hornets. There, they soundly defeated the Hornets, 64-53, to punch their ticket to the 2021 State Tournament.
“Our team’s unselfishness and ability to play the extremely fast tempo that we want has been incredible!” exclaimed Coach Eric Schoenbauer. “We have had different individuals stepping up and making big plays for us throughout the tournament and all year long. Each of our players is crucial to our success with each of them making contributions that keep our team moving forward. Many of the contributions go unnoticed, but they are still vital! Managers, assistant coaches, and all players have bought in and are pushing us to be our best!”
In the Section 6A Tourney, the Knights first took out Brandon-Evansville, then #2 seeded Parkers Prairie, #1 seeded and #6 state-ranked Hancock, and finally #2 state-ranked Henning.
The Knights have been seeded #4 in the North half of the Class A State Tournament and will thus take on top-seeded Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa on Tuesday night at 7 p.m. in Perham. The BBE Jaguars own a season record of 21-1 and are the Champions of Section 5A. They are the #4 state-ranked team in Minnesota.
Knights – 50
Owls – 49
The Knights lost to the Owls twice during the regular season, so they went into Hancock last Tuesday night knowing that it would be difficult to come away victorious, and they were right. However, they also knew that difficult and impossible are not the same thing so they went into the game trusting in their teammates and believing they would win. After 36 minutes of intense basketball, they did just that – win – by a single point, 50-49, over the favored Owls.The Knights battled the Owls all game long and, despite playing from behind for nearly the entire game, always remained well within striking distance. WCA trailed, 21-26, at halftime and fell behind by nine points on more than one occasion in the second half, but each time they fell behind by nine, one of the Knights would drain a huge three-pointer on the next possession to pull them back to within two possessions.
The Knights’ defense continued to wreak havoc with the Owls’ offense and the continued chipping away. Finally, with just under 5:30 to play, the Knights took the lead, 40-39. Then, they really hit their stride and went on an 8-2 run, sparked by a pair of threes by Macy Grosz, to go up by seven, 48-41, with just a couple minutes remaining. The Knights had all the momentum, but Hancock quickly grabbed it back with eight straight points of their own to take back the lead, 49-48. With the Knights in possession with under 25 seconds to play, it seemed like all was lost when they turned the ball over to the Owls. But WCA’s defense kicked into high gear, trapped the ball handler, and Mya Foslien came up with the biggest steal of the game. She lofted a pass to Lexi Bright who scored a layup to give the Knights the one-point lead, 50-49. WCA played tough defense for the final 15 seconds to preserve the win – not even allowing the Owls to get a shot off. The Knights shot 53 percent from the field making 18-34 attempts including 10-16 from three-point range. They were 4-9 from the free throw line. The Knights were led by Macy Grosz with 15 points, one rebound, one assist and a steal; Lexi Bright finished with 11 points, eight assists, six rebounds, two steals, and a blocked shot; Sydney Ulrich had six points and a rebound; Liz Rustan had five points, four rebounds, two steals, two blocked shots, and an assist; Brynn Fernholz had four points, four rebounds, a blocked shot, and a steal; Halle Foslien had four points and two rebounds; Mya Foslien had three points, two assists, one rebound, and a steal; Claire Stark had two points and two rebounds; Brooke Anderson had an assist and a rebound; and Addison Staples had a rebound.
Knights – 64
Hornets – 53
The Knights fell behind the Hornets, 7-2, early in the game, but they quickly gained their composure and made a run of their own to take the lead, 9-7. WCA played a very good first half of basketball and led, 36-29. Claire Stark led the Knights in the first half with 17 of her 19 points in the first stanza. Every time the Hornets would make a run, the Knights would respond with one of their own to stay in control.
As the second half got underway, the #2 state-ranked Hornets made a 12-5 run to draw even with the Knights at 41-41. It looked as though they might have the momentum, but the Knights’ Lexi Bright quickly drained a three pointer to regain the lead, and this time, for good. They continued to play fierce defense and push the tempo on offense and they eventually left the Hornets in their dust on the way to the big win, 64-53. All that was left was to cut down the nets and celebrate their first-ever Section 6A Championship. The Knights were 23-57 shooting from the field for 40 percent including 8-26 from three-point range. They were 10-15 from the free throw line. The Hornets were 17-50 shooting from the field for 34 percent including just 2-16 from three-point range. They were 17-25 from the free throw line. The Knights outrebounded the Hornets, 43-33, and forced 19 turnovers while turning the ball over 16 times themselves.
The Knights were led by Lexi Bright with 21 points, 10 rebounds, six assists, and a blocked shot; Claire Starke had 19 points, 12 rebounds, two steals, and two blocked shots; Macy Grosz had nine points, one rebound, and one assist; Brynn Fernholz had five points, two rebounds, two assists, and a steal; Liz Rustan had four points, six rebounds, three assists, and five steals; Brooke Anderson had two points and three rebounds; Sydney Ulrich had two points and a rebound; Mya Foslien had two points, three rebounds, and an assist; Halle Foslien and Addison Staples each had a rebound.