BY WAYNE “WHEATIES” WALLIN
Before the playoffs began, Pequot Lakes girls’ basketball coach Jon Dale set a goal of winning 20 games this season. He looked ahead and said the Patriots would need to win the Section 8AA title and triumph in the Class AA state quarterfinals.
Dale’s team reached that goal by defeating Zumbrota-Mezeppa 57-46 in the quarterfinals on Wednesday, March 14, at Williams Arena.
“We were ready to play tonight, and we did a nice job blocking out,” Dale said. “Our bench did a great job, and Kayla (Miller) had a super game for us. It definitely was a team effort.”
Things didn’t look good for the Patriots at the start as Mattie Lueck picked up a foul just nine seconds into the game. Pequot Lakes did build a 9-4 lead, but Ashley Hinsch scored for the Cougars to cut the deficit to three points. Also on the play, Lueck was forced to the bench after being called for her third foul with 11:31 left in the opening half.
“I was a little nervous when Mattie picked up her third foul,” Dale said, “but Kayla (Miller) and Megan (Hogen) each had eight points and we were able to hold the lead (at halftime).”
With their senior leader on the bench, the Patriots went on a 6-2 run to open a 15-8 lead on two baskets by Miller and a layup by Hogen. After a free throw by Z-M, Hogen hit a three-point shot and Miller added a pair of free throws to give Pequot Lakes a 20-9 lead. The Cougars did close the half with an 8-0 run to make it a three-point game at the break.
Z-M got the first two baskets of the second half to take the lead, but the Patriots would quickly pull away with Lueck leading the scoring. Two baskets by Lueck gave Pequot Lakes a 24-19 edge. The Patriots eventually led 25-21 before Miller made two free throws and added a layup basket to make it 29-21.
The Cougars responded with a three-point basket, but Pequot Lakes scored six of the next eight points for a 35-26 lead. The Patriots extended the lead to 11 points after baskets by Lueck and Rachel Mott. Z-M began to foul, but Pequot Lakes made them pay with some deadly free throw shooting.
The Patriots were able to extend the lead to 19 points after a layup by Carissa Maher. Pequot Lakes final points came on a pair of Lueck free throws to make it 57-38.
The Cougars did make the final eight points as the reserves played for both teams.
“I knew if we still had the lead in the second half we would be all right with Mattie back,” Dale said of Lueck, who scored 18 of her 20 points in the second half.
Miller had a career night with 18 points, including making all 10 free throws. Hogen had eight points, Vanessa Lane had five, Mott four and Maher two.
Laura Brunner led Z-M with 15 points while Hinsch had 12. The Patriots were 18 of 51 shooting (31 percent) from the floor and 19 of 24 (79 percent) from the line. Z-M was 17 of 55 shooting (31 percent) from the field and 12 of 19 (63 percent) from the line. Pequot Lakes was two of six on three-point attempts while the Cougars missed all 11 attempts from three-point range.
The Patriots forced 12 turnovers, and turned them in to 13 points. Pequot Lakes committed nine turnovers.