by Adam Gruenewald
Central girls basketball fell just shy of third consecutive state berth, going 1-1 in section playoff games at Bresnan Arena at MSU-Mankato this past week and concluding their season.
The Raiders (27-2) opened with a 62-53 2AA north subsection final win over Glencoe-Silver Lake on Tuesday before falling in the section 2AA final in a 53-45 loss to New Richland HEG on Friday in the teams’ third matchup in the last four years.
NRHEG (25-5) advanced to the Class AA state tournament and, unseeded, were set to open up against #1 Roseau (27-0) at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, March 15, at Maruicci Arena.
Visit www.mshsl.org for updated schedule information.
Central won their fourth consecutive subsection title with a 62-53 win over Glencoe-Silver Lake on Tuesday at the Taylor Center in Mankato.
In the team’s second matchup of the season, Central built an early first half lead thanks to a solid defensive effort as well as strong shooting from Kali Grimm.
The 26-16 halftime margin proved to be crucial as Central’s Kali Grimm and Bren Fox and other Raiders had to counter 24 second-half points from G-SL senior Maddie Monahan.
Despite the absence of starter Anna Mackenthun who was out sick, the contest started out in fine fashion for the Raiders as they started the game on a 27-9 run before G-SL scored the last seven points before halftime.
Kali Grimm, who finished with a team-high 27 points, hit two 3-pointers in the opening minutes and Samantha Miller also found Bren Fox for a score as Central led 8-0.
As is customary all season, head coach Gary Lembcke said the opening minutes of the first half was important.
“We came out and won the first 4 minutes and that was really big,” said Lembcke. “I thought our defense was really good to start out with and we slowed them down.”
Bren Fox later added another score inside, Kali Grimm and Shyann Wickenhauser executed a give-and-go on the fast break and Jayden Fritz later passed to Samantha Miller for a 14-2 lead about 6 minutes in as G-SL had not yet made a shot from the field.
After five points for the Panthers, Grimm’s third triple then helped spark a 13-2 run as Bren Fox and Samantha Miller each scored four points apiece during a stretch that left the Raiders up 27-9 with 2 minutes to go in the first half.
Showing signs of what was to come, Maddie Monahan scored four points and McKenna Monahan hit a late triple for the halftime margin.
Abby Mackenthun, playing some post defense in a smaller lineup for Central with the absence of her sister Anna, was one of the reasons for the solid defensive performance.
“We played aggressive defense and always knew where the shooters were and that was key for our defense,” she said, adding tracking McKenna Monahan was key. “We always keyed on her and knew where she was when she was driving to the lane. We always had to watch out when she kicked it out and get to the shooters.”
Abby Mackenthun, who went scoreless in the first half, helped jumpstart Central with a 3-pointer and it was essentially the McKenna Monahan show from that point on as Bren Fox and Kali Grimm, who had 16 and eight second-half points, helped the Raiders keep pace.
“I don’t know how you stop something like that,” said Lembcke of McKenna Monahan. “She gets you on your hip and she knows how to get to the basket and find her target. It’s really tough to stop her.”
It turned out to be a team effort for Central to counter McKenna Monahan, according to Lembcke.
“We were looking inside,” said Lembcke. “They were doing a lot of doubling and we capitalized on that and I think that was really big. We had good ball movement. Abby had a couple of big drives to the basket. She had a big 3 in the second half. Mary (Wenisch), Jayden (Fritz) and Shyann did a great job on a defense. Lot of good things there.”
A layup by Maddie Monahan had cut the lead to 46-37 midway through, but Abby Mackenthun converted 2-of-2 from the line, passed to Grimm for a bucket and Grimm then sank another hoop for a 52-37 with 6:25 left as the Raiders would convert free throws down the stretch to get the subsection final win and set up the meeting with New Richland HEG.
“We really have to use our momentum with this game heading into the next and go one game at a time,” said Abby Mackenthun.
GSL 16 37 – 53
Central 26 36 – 62
GSL – Miah Monahan 1 0-0 3, McKenna Monahan 4 0-0 10, Maddie Monahan 11 7-8 31, Olivia Lemke 0 3-4 3, Mickalyn Frahm 0 0-0 0, Kendra Ziebarth 1 0-0 2, Samantha Voigt 1 0-0 2, Kaitlyn Uecker 0 0-0 0, Molli Cacka 1 0-0 2, Kasidy Cacka 0 0-0 0, Jaelynn Pinske 0 0-0 0, TOTALS – 19 10-12 53
Central – Shyann Wickenhauser 1 1-2 3, Abby Mackenthun 1 2-2 5, Bren Fox 6 4-6 16, Samantha Miller 3 2-2 8, Kali Grimm 9 6-8 27, Mary Wenisch 1 1-2 4, Jayden Fritz 0 0-0 0, Amanda Geis 0 0-0 0, Eleigh Fritz 0 0-0 0, Emma Klaustermeier 0 0-0 0, Madison Johnson 0 0-0 0, TOTALS – 21 16-22 62
Three Pointers – GSL 5 (McKenna M. 2, Maddie M. 2, Miah M.), Central 4 (Grimm 3, Mackenthun)
New Richland H-E-G
Despite building a decent first half lead, Central fell short in their quest for a third straight state berth with a 53-45 loss to New Richland HEG on Friday.
Speaking after the loss and an emotional awards ceremony for his team, head coach Gary Lembcke summed up the feelings in the locker room for his team.
“It’s hard,” he said. “You have to look at what we’ve accomplished this year. Are there tears in there (locker room)? Yeah, but you want to see people that are in tears and care about what we had. Is it tough? Yeah, because our goal was to get farther than this, but we got outplayed and outcoached tonight by New Richland. They were the better team this night and they got it going and we just couldn’t seem to match it.”
New Richland junior Betsy Schoenrock proved to be the difference in the game as she scored 14 of her 18 points in the second half, sparking her team with several offensive putbacks and also making Bren Fox work hard for her 12 second-half points on the other end.
“(Schoenrock) really hurt us tonight,” said Lembcke. “She’s really come a long ways from last year. She did a nice job on the offensive boards and she did a nice job of frustrating Bren on our offensive end with her defense.”
Trailing 20-9 in the first half, the Panthers closed the half well and started on fire in the second frame with Schoenrock finishing a 3-point play for NRHEG’s first lead of the game at 27-26 with 13:25 left in the contest.
“Defensively was good but we also had the opportunity to have a much bigger lead than that and that came back to haunt us a little bit,” said Lembcke. “Realistically we missed some easy shots and a couple times we rushed them and we kept playing defense. When they got their 3-point shots going, that frustrated us a little more and we rushed a few other shots. When they got the lead, that magnified it.”
Samantha Miller then made 2-of-2 from the line, Schoenrock got a putback and Fox then hit 2-of-2 and then scored off a solid entry pass from Abby Mackenthun for a 32-29 Raiders lead with 11 to go, but NRHEG then took control.
Grace Johns hit a triple, Marnie Wagner, who had 20 points, knocked in a left wing 3-pointer and Schoenrock finished an and-one for a 38-32 advantage with 9:03 to go.
Another 3-pointer by Marnie Wagner later put NRHEG up 47-38 with about 6 minutes left, but the Raiders countered as Abby Mackenthun splashed home a triple and Bren Fox scored inside but the Raiders went scoreless apart from a pair of late free throws from Kali Grimm.
With the game all but decided late, Central seniors Eleigh Fritz and Amanda Geis in a notable move by Lembcke.
Central started the game well defensively in the first half as they went out to a 15-2 lead about midway through. While NRHEG missed some 3-pointers during that stretch, the Raiders also caused plenty of deflections and steals with Bren Fox getting her share of blocks inside as well.
Kali Grimm started the game with a bucket, Samantha Miller scored inside and Bren Fox then hit a turnaround shot in the lane for a 6-0 lead before Schoenrock scored for the Panthers to make it 6-2 just 3 minutes in.
Grimm then made 2-of-2, Abby Mackenthun made 1-of-2 and hit a layup, before Bren Fox scored the next four points for Central and the 15-2 advantage. Marnie Wagner then hit a 3-pointer, Bren Fox outletted to Kali Grimm for a layup, but Wagner’s 3-pointer had turned the tide as they wound up closing the half on a 9-2 run for a 22-17 margin.
Seniors for Central include Eleigh Fritz, Amanda Geis and Shyann Wickenhauser
“It’s always tough to say goodbye to seniors and the three of them have been our captains and they’ve done a nice job of being leaders, staying positive and stuff like that,” said Lembcke. “(Shyann) has got that tough little kid mentality out there and that’s always served her well for the last three years… (All three) are great kids. They are good leaders and have been in the program for a long time and contributed. We’re going to miss them.”
As for the 61-year-old Lembcke, who has coached Central girls basketball for 33 non-consecutive years and compiled a 579-273 overall head coaching record in the state, said he will “probably” be back although “that’s a long ways off.”
Minnesota River Conference awards will be announced at a later date.
NRHEG 17 36 – 53
Central 22 23 – 45
NRHEG – Maddie Wagner 1 4-6 6, Marnie Wagner 7 2-2 20, Rachel Collins 0 0-0 0, Kayley Camerer 1 0-0 3, Kelly Harden 0 0-0 0, Betsy Schoenrock 8 2-2 18, Grace Johns 1 3-4 6, Erin VanWilgen 0 0-0 0, Lauren Herrmann 0 0-0 0, Olivia Christopherson 0 0-0 0, Alexis Anderson 0 0-0 0, Gabby Muri 0 0-0 0, TOTALS – 18 11-14 53
Central – Shyann Wickenhauser 0 0-0 0, Abby Mackenthun 2 1-3 6, Bren Fox 6 6-6 18, Samantha Miller 3 2-2 8, Kali Grimm 3 4-5 11, Anna Mackenthun 0 0-0 0, Mary Wenisch 0 0-0 0, Jayden Fritz 1 0-0 2, Amanda Geis 0 0-0 0, Eleigh Fritz 0 0-0 0, Emma Klaustermeier 0 0-0 0, TOTALS – 15 13-16 45
Three Pointers – NRHEG 6 (Marnie W. 4, Camerer, Johns), Central 2 (Abby M., Grimm)
Follow Adam Gruenewald on Twitter @adamgruenewald.