Minnewaska’s Emma Thorfinnson could not have started the game any better against Yellow Medicine East on Tuesday night. She could not have finished it much better, either.
Thorfinnson scored the first 10 points for the Lakers. Then with about 20 seconds left, she drained a three from the left wing that tied things at 71 apiece and eventually sent the game to overtime. Thorfinnson’s last of five triples came in that extra session as the sophomore guard stretched the Lakers’ lead to 76-71. They never looked back on the way to an 81-75 win.
“I just kind of felt it,” Thorfinnson said. “Our team played really well together, and our chemistry is really good.”
Thorfinnson had 27 points as part of a young Minnewaska team. The Lakers started four underclassmen with senior captain Rachel Erickson (9 points) on Tuesday. Ellie Danielson, another sophomore, added 16 points, 15 rebounds and six assists, while Isabella Ortendahl is a freshman center and eighth grader Maddie Thorfinnson handles the ball as a guard. Senior Kendra Kuczek came off the bench to score 10 points for the Lakers.
“We’ve been playing better lately,” Minnewaska head coach Brett Thorfinnson said. “We kind of needed a game like that where we had to come back and see if we could win a tight one.”
The Lakers (6-5, 3-2 West Central Conference) found themselves up by seven at the half but down by six late. Ortendahl had two big buckets in overtime, including the first points of the extra session that gave her team a lead it never relinquished.
“(YME) has a good team,” coach Thorfinnson said. “They’re really long. I was happy with the way we played and to see us put up 81 points. I didn’t know we had that in us.”
The Sting (5-4) used their size in the post and length at a lot of spots to stay close all night. They feature 5-foot, 11-inch senior center Anna McCosh. She put up 30 points and 10 rebounds, while Kaitlyn Mortenson (10 points), Madison Hinz (14 points) and Mackenzie Dyrdahl (10 points) were in double figures, as well.
Yellow Medicine East also used a full-court zone press from the get-go that forced the Lakers into 22 turnovers. But when they did break the press, Minnewaska was able to get a lot of easy buckets in transition.
“We figured it out after a while and saw that once we get through the first four, it’s a three-on-one going the other way,” coach Thorfinnson said. “When we did beat the press, we did a good job of finishing and turning it into points.”
The Lakers have won three straight games after a three-game losing streak. Coach Thorfinnson laments a couple of close losses that got away from them during that stretch in a three-point loss to Morris Area and a five-point loss to BOLD.
“We’re coming on,” he said. “We’re kind of getting into a rhythm with our subbing patterns and who can do what. Coming into the year, we weren’t really sure. You watch them playing summer stuff and (at the lower levels), but you’re just not sure where they’re at until they get out here and show they can handle that pressure.”
Thorfinnson felt his team might have played its best game of the season against Class AAA’s Worthington (5-5) in a 64-49 win on Dec. 27. Now a game over .500, this is a group that believes it is right on track with a roster that has the ability to get even better.
“We haven’t reached our peak,” Emma Thorfinnson said. “We still have a lot of growing to do as a whole team.”
That’s what excites this coaching staff and these players. With so many young athletes, it is a team that believes it has a bright future ahead of it if players continue to progress.
“I think we have a chance to be as good as they want to be as long as they put the time in,” coach Thorfinnson said. “I hope they’re seeing that, that we have a chance to be really good. We can tell them that over and over, but they have to kind of realize that.”
MINNEWASKA 41 30 10 - 81
YME 34 37 4 - 75
TOTALS - Minnewaska - FG - 28-67; Three-point FG - 10-32; FT - 15-25; Assists - 18; Rebounds - 38; Turnovers - 22; YME - FG - 30-83; Three-point FG - 4-20; FT - 11-21
MINNEWASKA - Maddie Thorfinnson - 7 points, 5 assists, 4 rebounds; Kendra Kuczek - 10 points, 1 assist, 2 rebounds; Hannah Hoffman - 1 point, 2 assists, 3 rebounds; Alexis Piekarski - 3 points, 2 rebounds; Isabella Ortendahl - 6 points, 1 assist, 5 rebounds; Emma Thorfinnson - 27 points, 1 assist, 3 rebounds; Rachel Erickson - 9 points, 1 assist, 3 rebounds; Avery Hoeper - 2 points, 1 assist, 1 rebound; Ellie Danielson - 16 points, 6 assists, 15 rebounds
YME SCORING - Kaitlyn Mortenson - 10; Anna McCosh - 30; Madison Hinz - 14; Mackenzie Dyrdahl - 10; Meeghen Dahlager - 5; Hannah Gullickson - 6