STAPLES -- The one thing that couldn't happen did happen to the Wadena-Deer Creek Wolverines girls' basketball team Thursday.
The Wolverines possess one of the best starting fives in the area, but lack of depth means the starting five plays most of the game. So when W-DC's second-leading scorer, Marissa Browne, went down with an ankle injury, things appeared gloomy.
But the Wolverines battled adversity and hung on to defeat the Staples-Motley Cardinals 44-38 in Mid-State Conference action.
"In the locker room we talked about getting tougher on defense, just being patient on offense and just waiting for those good shots," said W-DC coach Becky Woessner. "In the second half we took a lot better looks and it went our way.
"We also talked about boxing out and rebounding. In the second half we did that a lot better than we did in the first half. Those were the two keys that kept us in the game."
W-DC built a 26-19 lead before Browne went down late in the second quarter. Point guard Missy Speed and forward Kerby Johnson combined to score 15 points in the second quarter to help outscore the Cardinals 17-11 in the second. That moved W-DC's lead to seven at halftime.
"I was nervous," said Speed. "I was a little scared, not having (Browne) with us, but I knew if we played together as a team we could pull through."
That lead would prove invaluable. Without Browne in the lineup, points were at a premium for the Wolverines.
But without Browne in the lineup, points were at a premium for the Wolverines. The Cardinals' tenacious defense held W-DC to 10 points in the third quarter while they cut the deficit to four.
"Time and time and time again we were on the verge of tying it up and we would turn the ball over," said Cardinals coach Ron Beachy. "I'm missing Sarah Miller (out with an injury).
"I think we were ready to play, we just had, at inconvenient times, a turnover or we couldn't hang on to the ball."
Steph Rice scored four of her team-high 14 points in the third while Laura Warn and Michelle Honek matched Rice's four points to move the score to 36-32.
W-DC was held to just eight field-goal attempts, but made four of them.
In the fourth quarter, with S-M making its move, Woessner made a coaching move that proved to be the difference in the game.
"We tried to pull Kerby out to the point because (Speed) was getting trapped and was having trouble handling that," said Woessner. "We also wanted Kerby to post up low, but because they were doubling, we had trouble with that.
"I just told Kerby that she had to get to the high post in the middle and when she got it she had to drive to the hoop. It worked a couple of times, we got fouled and we went to the free-throw line."
Johnson finished with a game-high 19 points. Six of those came in the fourth quarter, which helped the Wolverines outscore S-M 8-6 in the final frame.
"This is a very important win," said Speed. "We were really excited for this game. We didn't want another loss. We were really disappointed after (a loss to Pine River Tuesday).
"I was choked up in the huddle after the game with the girls because we played real hard at the end of the Pine River-Backus game and we had our chances to win that game," said Woessner. "Now, tonight, we stuck in there and we had a lot of players that aren't used to playing a lot step up. They fought to the end."
Wadena-Deer Creek 9 17 10 8 -- 44
Staples-Motley 8 11 13 6 -- 38
WADENA-DEER CREEK (44)
Sara Kneisl 2, Missy Speed 10, Marissa Browne 6, Kerby Johnson 19, Avery Buresh 4, Christina Hanson 3. Team totals: FG 16-41 (percent), FT 7-10 (70 percent). Conference -- 4-0. Overall -- 8-2. Next game: Host Long Prairie-Grey Eagle 7:30 p.m. Tuesday
Laura Warn 6, Heather Gold 5, Michelle Honek 6, Rachel Domier 2, Steph Rice 14, Emily Waldahl 2 Rose Milless 3. Team totals: FG 18-49 (percent), FT 2-5 (percent). Conference -- 1-3. Overall -- 10-4. Next game: At Little Falls 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.
3-point baskets -- WDC 5 (Johnson 3, Speed 1, Hanson 1). Total fouls -- WDC 11, SM 13.
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