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Montevideo holds off WCA after Knights come back from 16 down

After trailing 41-25 with 14:30 left in the game, the West Central Area girls basketball made a comeback and nearly found a way to beat a tough Montevideo team.

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West Central Area's Lexi Bright tries to drive past Montevideo's Avery Koenen in a game on Jan. 31, 2022. Bright finished with 27 points, while Koenen had 22 in a 56-52 win for Montevideo.
Sam Stuve / Alexandria Echo Press

With 14:30 left in the second half, the Montevideo girls basketball team had control over the West Central Area Knights, leading 41-25.

But the Knights came storming back on a 20-4 run in seven and half minutes as they switched up their defense, using their full-court pressure to get back in the game.

“We really just started playing as a team,” WCA senior Lexi Bright said. “We kind of asked our coach (Eric Schoenbauer) if we could do that. And he said, ‘Sure, let's give it a try.’ So we went for it, we started communicating and getting on the same page and things just flowed for us.”

It wasn’t quite enough as the Thunder Hawks outscored the Knights 11-7 in the final two and a half minutes to win 56-52.

The Knights had a chance down 54-52 after Bright knocked down a three-pointer with seven seconds left. The Knights nearly forced a turnover but couldn’t keep the ball inbounds and the Thunder Hawks eventually found their way to the free throw line.

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West Central Area's Lexi Bright attacks the basket off of a Claire Stark screen in a game against Montevideo on Jan. 31, 2022. Bright had 27 points in a 56-52 WCA loss.
Sam Stuve / Alexandria Echo Press

With 1.7 seconds left, Montevideo junior forward Avery Koenen scored her 21st and 22nd points of the night to ice the game.

“When we were dribbling, attacking, shooting or we're doing something, we were making plays and taking shots, hoping to make them instead of going with confidence,” Schoenbauer said. “That kind of offensively for us took the wind out of the sails and we didn’t finish.”

For a three and half minute stretch late in the game, neither team could score. The Thunder Hawks had the ball for about a minute and half straight and couldn’t sink a shot.

“They were gonna run the clock down low,” Schoenbauer said. “(Koenen) had four fouls so they were trying to milk that clock down. It worked.”

The Knights have an overtime loss to Henning, a one-point loss at home against Cass Lake-Bena, a three-point loss to Wheaton/Herman-Norcross and now a four-point loss to Montevideo. Those are four of the Knights’ five losses on the year.

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West Central Area's Macy Grosz pressures Montevideo's Teagan Epema in a game on Jan. 31, 2022. Montevideo won 56-52.
Sam Stuve / Alexandria Echo Press

“We’ve had a lot of tough losses,” Bright said. “But they’re good learning (experiences) heading towards playoffs and later in the season because it shows us that when things are going our way we can’t let off because the lead can go as fast as it came.”

The Knights did have the advantage early on with an 8-2 lead in the first few minutes. But from there, Montevideo outscored the Knights 26-10 and held a 28-18 lead at halftime.

West Central Area turned it around in the second half, scoring 34 points and nearly doubling their first half production.

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“We know we're shooters and we know we can shoot,” Bright said. “We said at halftime, ‘Our shots will fall, we won’t be cold the whole game.’”

Their shots did fall in the second half, especially Bright’s. She scored 18 of her game-high 27 points in the second half. Junior forward Claire Stark joined Bright in double figures with 13.

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West Central Area's Claire Starks attempts a three-pointer in a game on Jan. 31, 2022, against Montevideo. Stark had 13 points in 56-52 WCA loss.
Sam Stuve/ Alexandria Echo Press

Bright and company were able to get some steals using the full court press which ignited their offense.

“When (Montevideo) reversed [the ball], they were looking to attack and they put themselves in bad spots,” Schoenbauer said. “When you're panicking, running up and down in the transition game and your heart rate elevates, you are tired so you foul. So their outside shots weren’t hitting at the end. We knew that would happen, we just wish it would’ve happened earlier.”

Bright had eight steals on the night.

With this win, the Thunder Hawks improve to 13-1, 7-0 in Section 3AA play, while the Knights fall to 9-5, 1-2 in Section 3AA play.

Monday’s win is just the third game all season in which the Thunder Hawks won by less than five points. It is also just the second time in nine games that Montevideo has allowed 50-plus points in a game.

The Knights showed they can play with one of the better teams in their section. They will try to snap a two-game skid now and avenge a 58-55 loss from Jan. 28 against Wheaton-Herman-Norcross when the Warriors (12-2) come to Barrett on Friday night at 7:30.

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Montevideo - 28 28 - 56

West Central Area - 18 34 - 52

MONTEVIDEO SCORING: Avery Koenen, 22 points; Hailey Dirksen, 12 points; Kiera Foley, 9 points; Tenley Epema, 6 points; Teagan Epema, 2 points; Kiera Foley, 2 points; Kasey Pauling, 2 points; Taya Weber, 1 point

WEST CENTRAL AREA: Lexi Bright, 27 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 block, 8 steals, 7 deflections; Claire Stark, 13 points, 7 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals, 1 block; Macy Grosz, 5 points, 2 assists, 1 rebound; Addison Staples, 4 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks; Kaitlyn Hanson, 2 points, 2 rebounds, 1 rebound, 1 assist; Elizabeth Rustan, 2 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist, 2 blocks; Mya Foslien, 1 rebound, 2 assists; Jayden Styba, 3 rebounds, 1 block, 3 deflections; Halle Foslein, 1 rebound

Sam Stuve covers a variety of sports in the Douglas County area. He also is assigned to do some news stories as well.
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