SECTION 2A GIRLS BASKETBALL: Mayer Lutheran tops SESM for Section 2A title

MANKATO – Mayer Lutheran girls basketball coach Kris Gustin had a picture of what he wanted his team to do in their Section 2A championship game. His team nearly executed it to perfection.

A quick start and a strong finish were the keys for the Crusaders as they clinched their second consecutive section title with a 58-45 win over Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s Friday night.

“I thought the girls really executed the game plan,” Gustin said. “The message was we’re not going to let others beat us. Trying to stop (Madison) Mathiowetz? You’re not going to do that. She’s going to score so it’s really not about her.”

The Crusaders did a combination of both, holding Mathiowetz to just 25 points, 16 of which came in the first half. As a team, Mayer Lutheran held the Knights to a season-low 45 points.

“It was all about not letting (Allie) Labat and (Reagan) Severson score. If they score in double digits, it’s hard to beat them. I thought the girls did a really great job.”

Mathiowetz came out swinging early, knocking down her first three shots and scoring a quick eight points. From that point on, Mayer Lutheran dug in defensively and took control of the game.

“When Madeline came out for an early timeout, I looked at her and said that’s not the start we wanted, ” Gustin said with a laugh. “After that, she was tired. As that first half wore on, we were able to throw two or three people on her and it just wore her down a bit. She was frustrated and that’s a credit to our pressure and team defense. It was a total team effort with our defense.”

With the defense settled in, Mayer Lutheran went to work on the offensive end. After pounding the ball inside to Julia Carns, that opened up the playbook for the Crusaders.

“We knew we had to figure out who she (Mathiowetz) was guarding,” Gustin said. “She’s such a smart and good defender. We didn’t know if she would guard Madeline or Emma. They started her on Madeline and we immediately looked inside to Julia. Our girls played really well.”

“I think we did really well,” Carns said. “We started off really strong as we possibly could and that’s exactly what we had to do. We put a lot of focus on getting the ball inside. We also hit some shots on the outside. Playing like that was our goal and we played really well. It’s really nice knowing how hard we worked for it.”

The Crusaders led by nine at the half but pushed their lead to as many as 17 in the second half as they had things working on both ends of the floor.

“Our passing was really good,” Guetzkow said. “We saw the open girl a lot today and that was key for us. We knew we could do it. We just had to keep working at it.”

Leading by double digits most of the second half, Mayer Lutheran used their patience to keep their lead and run down the clock. Both were key in keeping the Knights at arm’s length as they were unable to rally in the second half.

“A lot of fans will start cheering because they’re playing good defense,” Gustin said. “Ultimately. We’re reversing the ball and getting good looks every time. That way they have to work defensively. We’re setting screens and we’re making cuts. All of that is advantageous to us.”

With the win, Mayer Lutheran moves one step closer to their ultimate goal. After grinding out a tough regular season and section tournament run, the Crusaders will be battle-tested heading into their second state tournament appearance in a row.

“It helps us a lot,” Carns said about the tough schedule. “We play a lot of bigger schools to get ready for games like this. It helps us stay calm in games like this.”

“We challenged them to finish,” Gustin added. “All season has been geared to what this team can accomplish. We believe we’ve got three more wins in us. It’s stepping up in big moments and not trying to do too much. This team had embraced that. They really played well tonight.”

Mayer Lutheran will open the Class A state tournament Thursday at Maturi Pavillion. The Crusaders will find out what seed they are Saturday morning.

CLASS A STATE TOURNAMENT FIELD

SECTION 1 – Hayfield

SECTION 2 – Mayer Lutheran

SECTION 3 – Minneota

SECTION 4 – United Christian Academy

SECTION 5 – Nevis

SECTION 6 – Hancock

SECTION 7 – Mt. Iron-Buhl

SECTION 8 – Cass Lake-Bena

CLASS A STATE TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE

Thursday, March 17 – at Maturi Pavillion

(1) vs. Unseeded, 11 a.m

(4) vs. (5), 1 p.m

(2) vs. Unseeded, 3 p.m

(3) vs. Unseeded, 5 p.m.

 

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