The Watertown-Mayer girls’ basketball team went 1-1 last week, but one the game that mattered most, a 61-55 road win over Belle Plaine that moved the Royals back over .500 in the Minnesota River Conference to 5-4 overall.
Following that win over the Tigers on Thursday, Jan. 24, the Royals also lost a road non-conference game to Minnehaha Academy on Saturday. In that game, the Royals fell, 58-57.
Overall,the Royals are now 8-9 on the season.
Royals 61, Belle Plaine 55
Watertown-Mayer trailed by a point nearly halfway through the second half, but used a 10-0 run over the course of less than 2 minutes to seize control of a game that broke a tie for fourth place in the Minnesota River Conference.
“It was a real good team win,” Watertown-Mayer coach John Rosholt said. “I thought we played together on both ends of the floor. It was a hard-fought game.”
A pair of free throws for Belle Plaine with 11:22 to play gave the Tigers a 39-38 lead, but a layup from the Royals’ Chelsea Wandersee gave the lead back to the Royals for good. It was the start of what turned into a 10-0 run that gave the Royals a 48-38 lead. Hannah Johnson and Kirsten Klitzke followed with back-to-back threes and Claire Killian added a layup to push the Royals’ lead to nine points.
The extended the lead even more after Belle Plaine slowed the momentum with a basket of its own. Johnson hit another three to key another 8-2 run that also included another basket from Johnson, one from Ashley Wiswell and a free throw from Christine Kreatz. The Royals led, 56-43, with 5:41 remaining.
A 9-1 run for Belle Plaine closed the gap in a hurry, however, with the Tigers cutting the Royals’ lead to 57-52 with 2:06 left to play. However, Killian hit three free throws in the Royals’ several ensuing possessions to put the game out of reach.
For the Royals, the win was especially impressive considering the team’s leading scorer, Kate Theisen, is out with a torn ACL that she injured the week before. Rosholt said his team has made nice adjustments since that time, and it was especially nice to see Klitzke, Killian and Johnson combine for 43 points in the win.
“Obviously when you’re going to lose 20 points per game, somebody had to step up,” Rosholt said. “Offensively, we have kids that are starting to look at opportunities to score and being aggressive on the offensive end. I think overall we’ve stepped up, and I like the play of the top three against Belle Plaine. They all stepped up and they all scored more than their average in that game.”
Killian finished with 18, Johnson had 13 and Klitzke finished with 12. Kreatz and Wandersee added five points apiece for the Royals. Watertown-Mayer shot 41.5 percent from the field.
The Royals also got a team-high six rebounds from Liz Miller, while Killian added four rebounds, eight steals and three assists. Klitzke had four steals and Lexy Heldt added four rebounds.
“(Belle Plaine) has some good size, and I thought our post played well in that game,” Rosholt said. “I thought we defended well, from both the post and the perimeter. Overall, it was a nice team win.”
Minnehaha Acad. 58, Royals 37
While the Royals played a nice game without Theisen against Belle Plaine, they struggled offensively two days later on the road against Minnehaha Academy. This time, the Royals were held to 14 first-half points and shot just 22.6 percent (12-for-53) from the field overall in the loss.
Despite the Royals’ first-half struggles, they trailed by only 11 points, 25-14, at the half. However Minnehaha pulled away early in the second half, using a 19-1 run to turn a 29-19 game into a 48-20 game with 9:20 left to play.
“That was a disappointment,” Rosholt said of the entire game. “I don’t know if it was because it was a Saturday game, or playing in a new atmosphere, or a long bus ride. We did not come out of the gate well, and our intensity was not there at any point during the game. Give them credit for beating us, but a lot of it was us not playing the way we’re supposed to be playing.”
The Royals were led by nine points apiece from Klitzke and Killian, while Johnson added eight. Courtney Fisher scored four for the Royals. Miller again led the team with six rebounds, and also added two steals. Johnson had five rebounds, Wandersee had four rebounds and two assists and Killian had four rebounds.
“They were a long team, and not that we haven’t seen long teams before, but they have three kids over 6 feet.,” Rosholt said of Minnehaha Academy. “We struggled to score against their big girl inside, so that was a little frustrating to not get those points that we normally get inside.”
The Royals hosted Tri-City United on Tuesday, Jan. 29, and will return to action on Friday, Feb. 1, also at home against LeSueur-Henderson at 7:30 p.m. The Royals will also be on the road on Monday, Feb. 4, for a game at Rockford at 7:30 p.m.
Contact Matt Bunke at [email protected]