The Central Lakes College Raiders hosted Mesabi on Saturday in a rematch after a 53-50 victory by the sixth-ranked Lady Norse on Nov. 19 at Ridgewater.
Behind 17 points from Nikki Pearson, and stifling interior defense, CLC got revenge with a 64-61 victory.
The loss was the first of the year for Mesabi while the Raiders improved to 6-3.
Raiders coach Dennis Eastman remembers watching the tape of the first game and knew CLC had a good opportunity in the rematch.
"We were all tied up in the first game and we had a chance," he said. "There were seven seconds left and we had a 3-point shot but it didn't work out. When I was watching that game it was fun to watch, but there wasn't a big difference between that and today. Luck went our way today."
One of the reasons for the Lady Norse's national ranking is their inside presence with Jessica Love, Jazz Woodson, and Andy Ivanovic. Early in the first half Saturday, Mesabi got out to a 28-21 lead and the Raiders struggled to answer.
The problem was compounded when Pearson picked up her third foul at 6:27 of the first half. Conventional wisdom says that Pearson would have sat the rest of the half, but Eastman brought her back with 2:30 left in the game.
"We weren't handling the ball as well as I wanted us to and sometimes it's just good to put the pressure on the player to say you know what the situation is, now how are you going to react to it," Eastman said.
"The biggest thing was to play fundamental defense," he added. "I was thinking
please don't foul, but she's a smart enough player to understand the game. She's getting accustomed to the pace of the game, which is so important as a point guard."
Pearson was a bit surprised with the decision but stepped up when given the opportunity to play with three fouls.
"You know when you get that foul you can't be really aggressive," Pearson said. "I'm usually looking to drive but I knew they would try to take a charge so I stayed out at the 3-point line as much as I could."
With Pearson departing at the end of the half, and with Stephanie Neugebauer and Katie Hochsprung on the bench, the Lady Norse took a 35-28 lead.
Trailing by seven at the break, Eastman made an adjustment. One of the keys was the defensive play of Kelsey Wheeler, who came off the bench and scored 11 points.
"We made some adjustments and Kelsey came in and played a great game," Eastman said. "This is the best I have seen her play. She did a great job on (Jessica) Love. Love is a big girl but Kelsey was in there fighting and banging.
"I think everyone did a great job today. The girls told me this was the best they have played."
The Raiders made a comeback as they shut down the inside game of the Lady Norse, and also were able to break a three-quarter court press and get baskets in transition. The Raiders pulled even at 50-50 with 11:51 left.
Pearson explained how the press from the Lady Norse opened opportunities.
"Mesabi is really aggressive," she said. "Sometimes that can't be so good on a press because they are up too much on you and you can get it down the court. I thought that worked in our favor."
The Raiders hung on for the win when Woodson's 3-point attempt fell short with 12 seconds remaining.
Mesabi 35 26 - 61
Central Lakes 28 36 - 64
Natasha Dragicevich 3, Vanessa Aultman 5, Nicole Niemi 13, Kaia Armitage 2, Tina Nelson 2, Andy Ivanovic 4, Jazz Woodson 14, Theresa Stewart 3, Amber Hames 2, Jessica Love 13. FG 22-62(36 percent), FT 15-24 (63 percent). Overall: 5-1.
Nikki Pearson 17, Stephanie Neugebauer 8, Betsy Helmeke 8, Kelsey Wheeler 11, Brittany Gravelle 5, Carlee Davich 7, Katie Hochsprung 8. FG 20-60 (33 percent), FT 16-28 (57 percent). Overall: 6-3. Next: host Hibbing 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.