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Tigers battle the best in conference

February 18, 2020 by Brett LaBore


The Mercer girls’ basketball team continued its journey through Indianhead conference play with sectionals around the corner.
First the team lost a tight game against Drummond 54-42 on Monday, Feb. 10.
Then they lost to Hurley 52-36 on Thursday, Feb. 13.

Drummond
“Again they’re a really tough team,” coach Vic Saeger said of Drummond. “They’re a super physical defense.”
Drummond came in with one of the best conference records in the Indianhead — 12-3.
The Tigers continued their successful inbounds play with a score by Jessica Klopatek. Then, Zoe Botes hit a mid-range jumper setting up some scoring options.
Drummond came out shooting well and led 12-4 at the 12:14 mark.
KD Knipp came in off the bench and made an impact. She scored off the backboard on another inbounds play and then made a jumper thanks to an Ella Torkelson assist.
“(KD’s) super fast and super athletic and she beats people down the court,” Saeger said. “She’s become a big part of our team.”
The Tigers closed the score to 17-13.
Drummond’s Jordan Bjork had the hot hand early and was making life hard for the Tigers. Drummond went on a 7-0 run and led 24-13 with 5:35 left. Bjork finished with 20 points.
Ava Barton responded with a huge 3-pointer, the Tigers’ first of the game. Knipp and Torkelson made both of their free throws to get the deficit to under 10 at half.
Drummond led 29-20 at the half.
The Tigers came out firing in the second half. First, Ava Barton scored on the fast break, assisted by Torkeson. Then, Botes hit a basket in the paint in-between a flurry of players.
Knipp made back-to-back baskets again for the Tigers. One came on a steal, the other on an offensive rebound.
The Tigers went on a 10-4 run and Drummond took their first timeout. Drummond still led 33-30 with 11:50 left. 
Barton led the fast break before dishing it to Knipp for the two points on a steal. The Tigers had cut the lead to one point. Knipp finished with a team-high 16 points. 
Then Drummond came back with a 6-0 run of their own. They weren’t going to break that easily.
After that, Molly Hohner came up big with six straight points. Two of those points came on an offensive rebound she put back up.
The other four points came on free throws, going a perfect 4/4 from the line.
“Molly is super smart, she gets key assists and does things a casual basketball fan won’t notice,” Saeger said. “That was a big part of our comeback and she’s been a huge part of our success this year.”
The Tigers cut the Drummond lead to 43-42.
With a chance to take the lead, it looked like the Tigers had a steal from Knipp. Instead, the referees called a travel and Drummond took control of the ball.
“That changes the whole complexion (of the game),” Saeger said. “They’re fouling us and we have to get up on defense.” 
The call proved to be big as the Tigers never got any closer. Drummond made their free throws as Mercer came up empty on their offensive possessions.

Hurley
The Tigers were going against the best team in the Indianhead — Hurley came in undefeated in conference play. And they responded with a big-time start. The Tigers led 8-2 early on in the game. Not only did they start well, but they battled with Hurley in the first half.
“We played them tooth and nail the whole first half,” Saeger said.
Ella Torkelson was a big reason for that first half, making the right decisions on offense.
“Ella Torkelson did an awesome, awesome job decision-making or passing to open spot,” Saeger said. “She was huge in breaking their press.”
The Tigers were down 21-17 at the half.
In the second, Hurley showed why they are so tough. They put up the first 10 points of the second half as the Tigers’ passing struggled to find consistency.
“Second half we came out flat,” Saeger said. “Too many turnovers. We were making passes that just weren’t open. But happy with our defensive effort against a really good team.”
The Tigers played Monday against White Lake. 
Then they play their final regular season game against Ironwood on Thursday, Feb. 20 in Mercer. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.
Brett LaBore may be reached at [email protected] or [email protected].

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