CLASS A STATE GIRLS BASKETBALL: Mayer Lutheran blows by United Christian Academy

MINNEAPOLIS – Despite missing one of their key players, the Mayer Lutheran girls basketball team took care of business in their opening game of the Class A state tournament. Led by some hot shooting from the floor, the Crusaders cruised to a 56-33 win over United Christian Academy Thursday night.

“We talked about having a big start,” Mayer Lutheran coach Kris Gustin said. “Seeds don’t matter this time of the year. They just had to beat us one time. It was about coming out and focusing so that we start the game out strong.”

The win for Mayer Lutheran was the first win by a high seed in the state tournament thus far. After top-seeded Mt. Iron-Buhl was upset in the opening game of the day, Mayer Lutheran knew they needed to come ready to play.

“Clearly anything can happen on any given night,” senior Emma Lade said. “We weren’t so worried about the No. 1 seed being out. An unseeded team can easily upset a seeded team and that could have happened to us today. We just came out and worked hard.”

“We heard about it and talked about it for a minute or two,” Julia Carns added. “Then we started focusing on this game and how we can get  through this game first.”

Mayer Lutheran came out ready to play. A 26-5 run to open the game for the Crusaders put them in control throughout. United Christian Academy was forced to play catch up all game long as Mayer Lutheran advanced to the state semifinals for the first time since 1977.

“We knew we had to come out and take it one game at a time,” Madeline Guetzkow said. “Just keep ourselves composed and play as ourselves.”

Mayer Lutheran’s experience was on full display in the win. With many of the girls experienced on the state’s biggest stage in both basketball and volleyball, the Crusaders felt at home in their first game of the tournament. That’s also helped their team chemistry as they’ve been playing together for a number of years.

“It helps a lot with chemistry,” Lade said. “We’ve been playing with each other for so long. A lot of the girls on the team have gotten to state. I just felt like it helped calm down the nerves a little bit.”

Mayer Lutheran shot 62 percent from the field in the win. Guetzkow led the charge with 17 points on 8-for-10 shooting while Lade was also in double figures with 11 points. The Crusaders did have 27 turnovers, a stat they’ll need to improve on going forward.

“It was certainly sloppy at times,” Gustin said. “Some of that was nerves and some of it was just understanding and valuing the ball. What I love about this team is that even when we do turn the ball over, we come back and play hard to try and get it back. We don’t seem to dwell on turnovers which is a real positive.”

Mayer Lutheran will face third-seed Hancock in the Class A semifinals Friday. With one more win, the Crusaders will be looking to play for a state championship for the second time in program history.

“These girls are gamers,” Gustin said. “The bright lights don’t bother them. It’s a big stage. They’ve been there before. They’re just good enough to do it wherever they have to.”

After Wachholz missed the quarterfinal game with an injury, Mayer Lutheran is hoping to have her back in some form in their semifinal game Friday.

“We’ll see,” Gustin said about having Wachholz available. “Her ankle has responded well to treatment. We’re pleased with where she’s at and that we didn’t have to use her tonight. We’ll see if she can give us some time tomorrow. She brings a lot to our team with her size and rebounding. Hopefully, we’ll get a few minutes out of her and see how it goes.”

 Follow Kip Kovar on Twitter – @Kovar_HJSports 

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