STAPLES — They’re called free, but Kelly Pearson and Class 2A’s eighth-ranked Staples-Motley Cardinals earned them.
Pearson hit eight of 10 free throws in the final 47 seconds of Friday’s Mid-State Conference clash to hand the Cardinals a well-fought for 63-54 victory over rival Wadena-Deer Creek.
Pearson finished with a game-high 26 points as she scored 13 points in each half. Jasmine McGillvray tallied 12 points, 10 coming in the second half as the Cardinals broke open a close contest for a 47-37 edge.
Like the Cardinals in the first half, W-DC rallied thanks to a 13-1 run that gave W-DC a 50-48 advantage with 10 minutes remaining. A five-minute scoring drought by both teams ensued until Bobbi Jo Mathe hit one of her three buckets to tie the score.
“What I was frustrated with on our end was we worked all week on getting into the gaps of their zone defense,” said S-M coach Arden Beachy. “We were too content because we hit shots early, just to pass the ball around the perimeter, but they were playing a zone and matching up like it as a man defense. I wanted to get into the gaps and Jasmine got in there with five minutes left and hit a couple of gaps and kicks it to Kelly and then we started breaking the defense down the middle. Then we were getting wide-open looks.”
Both teams secured leads before Mathe hit her final basket to hand S-M a 55-54 lead. From there it was all Pearson, who drained the next eight free throws for the final score.
“I wanted to win this one bad,” said W-DC head coach Keith Ferris. “Especially after the first time we played them. They come to our house and beat us by 30 and it was one of the worst games we played all season.
“I knew going into the game that if we played our game we could be neck-and-neck with them right down to the end. That’s what it was. It was only a three-point game with 40 seconds left. We had a shot and missed it and then you go fouling. The thing is they go down and hit their shots and we didn’t hit ours.”
W-DC was led by junior post Emily Miron, who posted 20 points, 13 in the second half. Avery Jackson finished with 17 points, with 11 coming in the first half.
It was Jackson and the Wolverines who pushed out to a 10-0 lead and raised it to 23-15 before the Cardinals rallied.
S-M, which had beaten W-DC at Wadena 79-49 back on Dec. 6, used a 9-1 rally to tie the score at 26-26. The Cardinals finally took their first lead at 2:35 of the first.
“We were patient that first half,” Ferris said. “I told the girls if we’re not patient Staples will run. They like to run. They like to score high points and we just don’t have the depth like they do to run with them. We were patient and then we got out of it there in the second half. When we got back into it, we slowed the game down and played our basketball and not falling into what they like to do.”
S-M, which was coming off its most disappointing game of the season, a road loss to Pelican Rapids Monday, shot 72 percent from the free throw line, but nothing was easy about Friday’s win, which helped S-M remain perfect in the Mid-State.
“I just told the girls that some teams have come out hot against us before and the only one we didn’t respond to was on Monday,” Beachy said. “So I wanted to see if we could respond. They had been there before and they acted like that. They hit some shots and got us back in the game and then we could just play.”
Wadena-Deer Creek 28 26 — 54
Staples-Motley 34 29 — 63
Hope Theisen 9, Caitlin Volkmann 5, Emily Miron 20, Avery Jackson 17, Melissa Moenkedick 3. FG 21-46 (46 percent), FT 8-10 (80 percent) , 3-pointers 4-11 (36 percent).
Jaelin Beachy 2, Mackenzie Holst 4, Mikayla Wing 7, Kelly Pearson 26, Jasmine McGillvray 12, Bobbi Jo Mathe 6. FG 20-46 (43 percent), FT 13-18 (72 percent), 3-pointers 10-22 (45 percent).
JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at email@example.com or at 855-5856.