After a shaky start to the season, head coach Kris Gustin and the Mayer Lutheran girls’ basketball team feel that the growing pains have ended and the team is beginning to gel.
Gustin said many aspects of the game having improved including shooting, passing, and the overall ‘heads up’ mentality, where players are always looking for the open player and being prepared to catch the ball.
Picking up wins last week in back-to-back home games, the Crusaders cruised to 30-point victories over conference team Tri-City United and Breck on Jan. 4-5.
Mayer 62, TCU 32
Hosting the Titans on Jan. 4, the Crusaders pushed out to an early lead, topping Tri-City United by 14 points at the break (34-20). But Gustin said the team truly established itself in the second half, picking up the defense and really shutting down the Titans’ offense, limiting them to only 12 points, while the Crusaders scored 28.
The Crusaders 62 points came from 28 sucessful field goals (of 64 attempts, 44 percent) and a handful of free throws (5-12). Senior Nico Schmidt led Mayer Lutheran’s offense with 18 points, followed by junior Lauren Manteuffel with 13. Sophomore Brenna Larsen (7), senior Ashlyn Hucky (7), senior Tina Bruggman (6), and junior Josie Peters (6) also contributed points, along with junior Krianna Boelke (2), sophomore Cailey Benkowski (2), and junior Shelby Sicheneder (1).
The Crusaders grabbed 36 rebounds, 13 while on offense, led by Schmidt (12), Manteuffel (6), and Sicheneder (5). While the Crusaders have been winning the rebounding battle lately, Gustin said the team still has room for growth.
“We outrebound teams but we still give up too many rebounds,” he said, speaking of TCU’s 26 boards collected and the 23 Breck would grab the next night.
Quick hands allowed the Crusaders 19 steals. Hucky (5) and Boelken (4) combined for half the team’s steals, while Schmidt (2), Manteuffel (2), Larsen (2), Peters (2), Kuntz (1), and Bruggman (1) grabbed the rest.
Mayer 61, Breck 23
In a nearly 40-point victory the next evening, the Crusaders hosted the Breck Mustangs Jan. 5. Mayer Lutheran lit up the scoreboard in the first half, making 16-22 shots from the field (nearly 80 percent) for 41 first half points. Good Crusader defense and poor Breck shooting put Mayer Lutheran up 41-13 at the half.
Shooting for the Crusaders dropped considerably in the second half, as the team only scored 20 points, but still cruised to an easy 61-23 victory.
Overall, the Crusaders were 25-43 from field goal range and made three of six three-point shots. Mayer Lutheran also shot 57 percent from the free throw line, led by Hucky (8-10).
Huckey led the overall offensive effort with 19 points, and was the only player for either team in double-digit scoring. Also scoring for Mayer Lutheran was Larsen (8), Bruggman (8), and Schmidt (8), along with a host of others under five points.
Hucky, Manteuffel, and Peters each grabbed two steals of the Crusaders’ nine.
Mayer Lutheran pulled down 26 boards (to Brecks’ 23) and had eight fewer turnovers than the Mustangs. Schmidt led the rebounding with eight.
Gustin said the team knows what still needs to be worked in, specifically, free throws and rebounds.
“If we can get better in those areas, I think things will carry themselves through,” he said.
As the season breaches the midway point, the Crusaders are 7-7 overall, and are comfortably in the middle of the Minnesota River Conference with a 3-2 conference record.
The Crusaders have three conference games in the next week, beginning tonight, Jan. 10 at LeSueur-Henderson. Mayer Lutheran will host Watertown-Mayer Jan. 15 and Sibley East Jan. 18.