LESTER PRAIRIE – When Lester Prairie girls basketball coach Mike Lee walked into the locker room after the Bulldogs matchup with Waseca, it wasn’t a sad room. Despite coming up short in a tough 60-56 loss to the Bluejays at home Friday night, Lester Prairie got better and that’s been the goal for his team all season long.
“They knew they played well,” Lee said. “It wasn’t a sad locker room. They played well but they also knew we lost the game. They beat us officially, but we lost it. We had plenty of chances. We make a couple of more layups, we win the game.”
In a season in which the Bulldogs have cruised through conference play for the most part, finding themselves in a battle throughout is exactly what Lee thought his team needed.
“I loved this game,” Lee said. “I don’t care if we lost or won. Of course, I want to win, but I’d play every game like this all year. This is basketball. This is what I like compared to other games we’ve had this year.”
The biggest lead on either side was just seven points and Lester Prairie and Waseca battled it out. With senior and leading scorer Marissa Radtke back in the lineup coming off an injury, the Bulldogs felt whole again.
“It felt so great to get back on the court with my teammates,” Radtke said. “This is probably the best game our team has ever played.”
Lester Prairie had a one-point lead at the half but found themselves playing catchup for most of the second half. Whenever it looked like Waseca would pull away, the Bulldogs would answer right back as they would dig in on the defensive end.
“I think we did a really good job on a couple of really big kids,” Lee said. “We had plenty of chances to win, but we missed some layups and some free throws. We were lost every once in a while out there, but defensively, I thought this was our best game of the year so far.”
Lester Prairie’s defense has been a big focus for them all season long. While they got stops when they needed to, Lee wants his team’s rebounding to improve as the season progresses.
“We didn’t box out,” Lee said. “In my 10 years here, we’ve struggled boxing out. If anybody has a good box-out drill, I’d take it. We just struggle boxing out. We don’t have that person that just wants the ball. I thought (Taylor) Ebert did really well at times rebounding and Addison (Hoof) went up and got one against a 6-foot-3 girl. There are certain things that we need to be more consistent with.”
Ebert did more than just rebound at times for the Bulldogs. She knocked four 3-pointers and had the late bucket for her team to bring them within two in the final minute.
Radtke led the way with a team-high 22 points, while Lizzy Anderson added 11 points. With Radtke back in the lineup and Hoof continuing to play well of the bench, Lee likes where his team is at going forward with Hoof playing her role well.
“If she can understand coming off the bench as the sixth person that will be huge,” Lee said. “Some of my best players have been the sixth person if they accept that role. I know she will and it’s going to make our team a whole lot better.”
The Bulldogs fell to 8-3 overall with the loss. Even with the loss, Lester Prairie finds themselves feeling better about where they are at with just a few weeks of the regular season left.
“Even though we lost we grew so much as a team and that will help us win when it really matters,” Radtke said. “As for the team, we are so grateful to back on the court with the whole team. We are happy to be able to get back to playing and improving as one.”
For the complete story and more Herald Journal sports coverage, check out the Feb. 26 edition of the Herald Journal. Click here for subscription information.