The Watertown-Mayer girls’ basketball team stayed perfect in the Minnesota River Conference last week, but needed some last-second heroics to do so.
Claire Killian drained a 3-pointer at the buzzer from well behind the 3-point arc on Friday, Jan. 17, lifting her team to thrilling 64-63 win over host Mayer Lutheran. The win moved the Royals to 10-4 overall this season, and 6-0 in the Minnesota River Conference.
“It was an exciting finish,” Watertown-Mayer coach John Rosholt said. “It was a great high school basketball atmosphere. I think the place was packed. If you put 20 people in there, it’s a noisy gym, but when you pack that gym and put a band in there, it just felt like a playoff atmosphere. It was a great experience for us.”
The Royals trailed by as many as six points with under 2 minutes to play, but strong free throw shooting in the final 22 seconds kept the Royals in it and gave Killian a chance to sink the game winner.
With 22 seconds left and the Royals trailing 61-57, Kirsten Klitzke sank two free throws to cut the Mayer Lutheran lead to 2. With 9 seconds left and the Crusaders up by 3, Lexy Heldt sank 2 more free throws to cut the 62-61.
After the Royals fouled in the backcourt, Mayer Lutheran connected on one of two free throws, giving the Crusaders a 63-61 lead with 7 seconds left. The Royals, who didn’t have any time outs left, inbounded the ball to Klitzke, who raced up the floor and used a screen from Liz Miller to try to free herself for a shot. Finding her path obstructed, though, Killian dished the ball to Killian who drained the long-range winner.
“Mayer played a really good game,” Rosholt said. “Their guards handle the ball really well. Their post play is exceptional. They run their offense and they play a very nice game. We just got some breaks and had a great opportunity at the end for Claire to win the ball game.”
It was a nice comeback for the Royals, who trailed by as many as 10 points midway through the second half. Mayer Lutheran led 47-37 when Maria Kuntz scored inside. A five-point spurt from Klitzke, when she hit a three and a layup on consecutive possessions, later cut the Royals’ deficit to 51-49, and a three from Chelsea Wandersee with 4:49 left cut the Mayer Lutheran lead to 53-52. However, the Crusaders were able to build the lead back up to six with 1:59 left when Brenna Larsen drained a three, but the Royals were able to rally one final time.
“It was a hard fought game,” Rosholt said. “I like the fact we battled back. We played hard all the way through.”
After leading by one, 27-26 at halftime, Klitzke and Killian both came up big for the Royals in the second half. Klitzke scored 16 of her game-high 21 points in the second half, and Killian scored all 10 of her points after halftime. Wandersee also had 13 points for the Royals, and Miller contributed eight points and 11 rebounds.
“Liz miller did a great job in both games last week,” Rosholt said. “She’s averaging about nine rebounds per game now. She’s playing very solid in the post.”
Killian also added seven steals and five rebounds for the Royals, and Klitzke had five rebounds and three assists. Victoria Lynch had four rebounds.
Royals 57, Sibley East 30
The Royals’ game earlier in the week, on Tuesday, Jan. 14, wasn’t quite as thrilling as the Royals jumped out to a huge early lead at home against the Wolverines.
Wandersee scored the game’s first nine points, all on three pointers, and the Royals eventually extended their early lead to 21-1 with 7:04 left. Watertown-Mayer led 36-17 at halftime.
“I thought we defended really, really well,” Rosholt said. “I thought we had good ball pressure all night long. We forced some turnovers and some errors on their part.”
Sibley East cut the lead to 15 early in the second half at 36-21, but an 18-5 run for the Royals put the game away. Klitzke led the team with 15 points, also adding five rebounds, four steals and three assists. Wandersee had 14 points, while Killian added 13 points, seven rebounds, eight steals and three assists. Miller had a game-high nine rebounds while Lynch had five, and Heldt had four steals.
The Royals will play a pivotal Minnesota River Conference game at home against Jordan on Thursday, Jan. 23, at 7:30 p.m. Jordan enters the game with a 5-1 record in the MRC, just a game behind the Royals.