MAYER – It was a night to remember for Mayer Lutheran senior Madeline Guetzkow. After recording her 1,000th career point in the first half, Guetzkow helped the Crusaders take over the game in the second half as they picked up a 67-58 signature win over No. 2-ranked Buffalo Lake-Hector-Stewart Monday night.
“It feels great,” Guetzkow said about the win and the milestone. “I feel like we played really well as a team and they helped ease my nerves at the beginning of the game. It just made me feel no pressure and relaxed.”
After the Crusaders found themselves in a battle in the first half, the second half couldn’t have gotten off to a worse start. Mayer Lutheran was held scoreless for nearly the first five minutes of the second half and fell behind as BLHS extended their two-point lead at the half to 12 with just over 10 minutes left to play.
“They’re a good team,” Mayer Lutheran coach Kris Gustin said. “They are hard to defend. I thought when we executed the game plan, we defended them very well and made them take tough shots. That’s what we wanted to do but we had some breakdowns and we didn’t contest as well as we needed to.”
Coming out of a timeout facing their biggest deficit of the night, Mayer Lutheran took control of the game. A 17-1 run by the Crusaders not got them back in the game but gave them the lead. With just under seven minutes to go, Guetzkow gave the Crusaders their first lead of the second half, a lead they would hold onto the rest of the game despite one last rally by the Mustangs.
“I’m really proud of the girls,” Gustin said. “I don’t know what happened at the start of the second half. We came out flat as can be and they came out fired up. It wasn’t looking good for us and then the momentum kind of shifted. I’m really proud of the way they responded.”
“We just needed to clean up our passes and then we got our offense going,” Guetzkow added. “We were patient and that really helped us. Our coach says once you make one the basket just gets bigger. Our confidence really grew from that.”
Back-to-back 3-pointers by the Mustangs tied the game at 53 with under five minutes to play but it was all Mayer Lutheran down the stretch. The Crusaders closed the game on a 14-5 run as they essentially secured the No. 1 seed in the Section 2A North sub-section with the win. Down by 12 midway through the first half, Mayer Lutheran held BLHS to just 11 points over the final 10 minutes to take all the momentum in the win.
“It starts with defense,” Gustin said. “We can do some things offensively in transition but it really does start with defense. When we execute the defensive game plan, things go well. We switched better in the second half. To hold them to only 11 points is pretty impressive. That’s a good team to clamp down defensively like that.”
Guetzkow was big all game long for the Crusaders, especially in the second half where she scored 17 of her game-high 28 points to help take over the game.
“She stepped up,” Gustin said. “You have to be proud of her. She needed eight points coming into the game to reach 1,000 in her career. That’s always in the back of your mind and once you get it you worry there might be a letdown. She didn’t stop one bit. She played hard till the end and kind of put our team on her back tonight. She really took over offensively. The ball in her hands is a good thing for us and she had the ball in her hands a lot that second half.”
The matchup between two of the top teams was possibly just a preview of what lies ahead next month. Both Mayer Lutheran and BHLS are in the Section 2A North sub-section and will likely battle it out once again in the postseason.
“We’re going to have to be ready to play again,” Gustin said. “We have one of the toughest sub-sections with them and BOLD. This was a big one as we’ll get the No. 1 seed and avoid the second-round matchup, but we’re anticipating playing them again they’re going to come out gunning for us. This is the third time in a row we’ve beaten them and I’m sure they’re going to come with a vengeance.
“This game was big,” Guetzkow added. “It’s most likely in our future again so we’ll know what to expect next time.”
Follow Kip Kovar on Twitter – @Kovar_HJSports