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Finding victory

Tigers defeat Solon Springs

January 31, 2020 by Brett LaBore

The Mercer girls’ basketball team picked up a conference win on Monday night.

The Tigers took on Solon Springs and won 49-37.

“Our seven players that play the main part of the game … every one of them contributed,” coach Vic Saege said. “It was a nice team effort.”

The Tigers blitzed Solon Springs in the first half, but it did not come right away. It took a little bit for the Tigers to score their first basket of the game.

Leading scorer Zoe Botes got the Tigers on the board with two free throws. She then made the Tigers first two baskets minutes later. One came on a basket breaking the press and the other assisted by Jessica Klopatek. Botes had 12 points in the first half.  

“We were patient,” Saeger said. “We got a shot every possession and that’s huge.”

At the 11:36 mark, the Tigers led Solon Springs 8-7. That’s when they went on their run that opened the game up.

Ava Barton made a cut to the rim and scored a deuce. Then Jessica Klopatek scored, assisted by Ava Barton.

“Defense and lack of turnovers, us not turning the ball over in the first half was huge,” Saeger said.

Keeping her pulse on the game, Ava Barton knocked down the Tigers first 3-pointer of the night. 

Freshman KD Knipp came off the bench and impacted the game in a number of ways, especially on the defensive end. She scored her first basket on an inbounds play.

“KD Knipp came off the bench and used her athletic ability,” Saeger said. “She got us a bunch of rebounds, a bunch of loose balls, made some fast breaks.”

The Tigers led 19-11 with 5:20 left.

Knipp used her athleticism to get a couple of steals in the first half, one resulting in a fast break score.

An 8-0 run pushed the score to 27-11 in favor of the Tigers with 1:48.

Keeping their foot on the gas pedal, Botes scored two more times before the end of the half. The Tigers used a 25-7 run to go up 33-14 at the half.

One Tiger, who had yet to make it into the box score but was making an impact, was Aubrey Schoeneman. 

“She played some really nice defense and got some rebounds,” Saeger said. 

Solon Springs did cut into the lead in the second half. Solon Springs’ Bailey Monson got a little bit of a groove going. She scored eight second half points. 

“We had her marked as the third best player,” Saeger said.

Molly Hohner scored four big points in the second half. Since the Tigers only scored 16 second half points, they needed every bit of her four points.

“She didn’t force it, she waited,” Saeger said. “She had a ton of rebounds, big rebounds tonight. She played really good.” 

Six other big points came from Jessica Klopatek hitting 3-pointers. Solon Springs left her wide open to double and triple team Botes. Jessica Klopatek answered by hitting two of them.

“We’re working the ball and obviously the second half they were denying the ball (to Zoe) leaving Jessica wide open. She took the dare and made two threes,” Saeger said.

Hohner and Jessica Klopatek combined for 10 of the Tigers’ 16 second half points.

The low scoring kept Solon Springs in the game. They kept making shots and were only down by 10. The Tigers led 40-30.

“We were breaking down a little bit,” Saeger said. “We made some turnovers, made some bad passes.”

Needing a basket, Knipp got another steal and scored off of it. Knipp ended up with nine points.

Solon Springs got the lead down to eight at 43-35, but wouldn’t get any closer.

Finally getting a good look, Botes made a shot and got fouled to sway the momentum permanently towards the Tigers. 

Ava Barton scored her first points of the second half to put the stamp on the game. She scored 12 points in the game.

Defensively, the Tigers limited Solon Springs’ leading scorer Kylli Rajala to eight points.

“Last time they played us, Rajala scored 25 points,” Saeger said. “Ella (Torkelson) always guards the best player. All conference Ella’s holding players to a third of what they’re used to scoring.”

The Tigers next game came Thursday against South Shore. Coverage of that game will be in the Feb. 4 edition of The Times.

Then they play Monday, Feb. 3 against Washburn at Coach Leverson Court in Mercer. The tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.

Brett LaBore may be reached at [email protected] or [email protected].

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