The Watertown-Mayer girls’ basketball team picked up a road win to open the Section 5AA playoffs last Thursday night at Mayer Lutheran, before the season once again came to end for the Royals with a 50-38 loss to top-seeded Providence Academy (22-4) at Dassel-Cokato High School on Saturday, March. 2.
The fifth-seeded Royals, who finished the year 13-15 overall, came into their playoff opener at fourth-seeded Mayer Lutheran (15-11) having already lost to the Crusaders twice, both by double digit margins and once by 20 points. However, the Royals focused on post defense entering the game — an area where they were hurt big time in the first two contests against the Crusaders — and that focus paid off big time in a 39-37 win for the Royals.
The Crusaders’ two post players still combined for 30 points, but the rest of the team was held to seven in the win for the Royals.
“Our goal was to try to take away their post scoring in the playoff game,” Watertown-Mayer coach John Rosholt said. “Our post defense did a nice job. Our post players did a good job, and our perimeters did a real nice job helping out defending the post. It was a real nice team win. Everybody that was on the floor had a function, they all had a job to do, and they all worked together quite well.”
Rosholt said he felt the biggest turning point came late in what was tremendously low-scoring first half. The Royals trailed 14-5 when Claire Killian hit a layup with just 2:23 left in the first half to spark a late run.
In all, the Royals closed the half on a 9-0 run, as Courtney Fisher followed that Killian basket with a pair of free throws, and Kirsten Klitzke drained a 3-pointer with 27 seconds left in the half to cut the Mayer Lutheran lead to 14-12. A layup from Killian at the buzzer tied the game at 14-14 going into the locker room at halftime.
“I was pleased with the 14-14 tie,” Rosholt said. “That 9-0 run I thought was crucial. They had a couple post players in foul trouble, and we had an opportunity to get the pressure up in that 4-minute period. We went into the half obviously excited about the little run we had.”
Neither team built a lead bigger than two points in the second half until Mayer Lutheran went ahead 33-29 on a basket inside from Nico Schmidt with 4:43 to play. Mayer Lutheran still led, 35-32, when Klitzke hit a jumper to pull the Royals within a point at 35-34 with just 2:02 left to play. Klitzke added another jumper with just 35 seconds left to give the Royals a 36-35 lead, and two more free throws from Klitzke with 22 second left made it a 3-point game.
Mayer Lutheran cut the deficit to 38-37 on a basket from Nicole Manteuffel, and Killian answered by hitting one free throw for the Royals with nine seconds remaining. Mayer Lutheran ended up with a look at a three to win the game in the closing seconds, but the shot was off the mark.
Klitzke had a team-high 15 points, and also added three assists for the Royals. Killian had nine points, seven rebounds and five steals, and Hannah Johnson had six points. Liz Miller and Lexi Heldt each finished with four rebounds.
PA 50, Royals 38
Despite the team’s 50-38 loss to Providence Academy, Rosholt was pleased with the way his team played against the state’s top-ranked team. Providence led 26-16 at halftime, but Rosholt was most pleased with the way his team held a potent attack in check all night.
“They have three players that are rock-solid Division I athletes,” Rosholt said of Providence Academy. “We made some nice adjustments. I thought the kids adjusted on the fly, and we tried to change our defense up on them every three or four possessions just to keep them off balance a little bit. I thought we played a nice game defensively.”
Klitzke finished with a team high 15 points, while Chelsea Wandersee added eight, including 4-for-8 shooting from 3-point range. Killian had a team-high five rebounds and three assists.
Contact Matt Bunke at email@example.com