PLYMOUTH – The gym at Heritage Christian Academy High School has not been a kind place for the Lester Prairie girls basketball team. For the second-straight season, the Bulldogs came up short in an attempt to keep their season alive as it all came to an end with a tough 70-57 loss to the Eagles in the Section 4A semifinals Tuesday night.
“I’m proud of the effort they gave tonight,” Bulldogs coach Mike Lee said.
Lester Prairie got off to a nice start thanks to a balanced effort on both ends. Leading 15-9 midway through the first half, mental mistakes on both ends of the floor gave the Eagles some momentum.
“We came out and made some mental mistakes. We threw the ball away a couple of times. We looked a little tired. I think we were a little stunned by them.”
Heritage Christian took a six-point lead into halftime. That was a bit deflating for the Bulldogs who thought they played well enough to have the lead.
“I felt we probably outplayed them 90 percent of the first half,” Lee said. “In the last few minutes, they took the lead a little bit. It was more mental errors than physical errors for us. That’s what happened.”
After letting Heritage Christian back in the game, Lee was expecting a better start from his team in the second half. A quick five points from Heritage Christian’s Taylor Schuck sparked a 7-0 run for the Eagles, extending their lead to 13 right out of the gate.
“I got on them a little bit at halftime and I thought they would come out a little stronger than they did,” Lee said. “If I could take any two minutes back this season it would be the first two minutes of the second half.”
Despite trailing by as many as 14 in the second half, Lester Prairie battled back. A 3-pointer from Kara Lee helped spark a 10-0 run for the Bulldogs, and just like that they were right back in it.
“We got back within three,” Lee said. “We had our chances to chip away and we did. We just missed a couple more shots and then a few more mistakes and that was it. The girls saw the score and it’s tough to come back at that point.”
As soon as Lester Prairie got it back to a one-possession game, the Eagles answered with another run of their own. A 3-pointer from Taylor Schuck put the Eagles back up 11 with six minutes to go and that was just too much to overcome for Lester Prairie.
Marissa Radtke led the way with a team-high 24 points. Lizzy Anderson added 17 points while eighth-grader Addison Hoof showed the Bulldogs have a player to watch going forward. Hoof played all 36 minutes for the Bulldogs and was a driving force on both ends of the floor for Lester Prairie.
“She’s going to be a nice player,” Lee said. “She’s young and has that motor that doesn’t quit. By doing cross country and that training she does year-round, that gives her the ability to go and go. She’s only an eighth-grader yet, but she likes the competition and challenges herself.”
As Lester Prairie’s season ends, so do the careers of four seniors (Radtke, Anderson, Taylor Ebert, and Paige Heimerl). All four have been integral parts of the program throughout their careers and will leave big holes to fill next season.
“They’re going to be a huge loss for us,” Lee said. “Their leadership has been very well appreciated. They were great leaders during their time here.”
Follow Kip Kovar on Twitter – @Kovar_HJSports