VIRGINIA — Thursday night’s girls’ basketball game between Virginia and Cherry was settled by boxing out, rebounding and second chance points.
Not every Tigers shot went in on the first attempt but, more often than not, Cherry teammates were there to play cleanup and get a second shot up and in.
The Tigers ran with this from start to finish as they downed the Blue Devils 62-45 at Roosevelt Gymnasium.
Cherry grabbed the quick 5-0 lead early thanks to a bucket from Lauren Staples on an inbounds play and a three from Kaelynn Kudis a couple possessions later. Just two minutes into the contest, Virginia head coach Spencer Aune called his first time out.
The Devils’ Halee Zorman got to the free throw line after the short break and knocked down two singletons to make it 5-2 and the two teams battled early in the opening frame.
An Anna Fink putback for Virginia made it 13-12 in favor of the Tigers halfway through the first and that’s as close as things got the rest of the way.
Junior 6-footer Lexiss Trygg got into foul trouble early for the Blue Devils, freeing things up a bit for Tigers forward Jessa Schroetter. After three fouls roughly halfway through the frame, Trygg ended up on the bench.
“It’s always important to take out a player like her with her size in the middle,” Sauter said of Trygg. “We tried to run the offense at her as well and make her defend a little bit more and overall I like the way we attacked her.”
Scoring from down low off the rebound or knocking down free throws from the charity stripe, the Cherry offense flowed through Schroetter in the first half as they were able to capitalize on the Devils zone defense that left the middle of the floor wide open. Scoring 21 points tonight and 29 in their win over Ely this week, Schroetter’s presence on the court has been monumental, according to her coach.
“She works her butt off to get in position out there. She has a pretty good knack for finding the gaps rebounding wise and she’s starting to finish on a more consistent basis. She’s playing real tough for us.”
At the half, Schroetter’s 12 points paced the Tigers as they led 34-18 at the break. Fink led the Devils halfway with seven.
The Tigers came out firing on all cylinders in the second half with Karlee Grondahl knocking down a three to kick things off. After two points in the paint from Virginia’s Kaylee Iverson, Trygg picked up her fourth foul and went back to the bench, unable to get any momentum going for the Devils.
Virginia sophomore Rian Aune knocked down a pair of threes after Trygg sat but the Tigers kept their distance thanks to second chance points and solid play at the free throw line.
Quickly after, back to back buckets from Schroetter put Cherry back up by 17 to make it 45-28. A jumper from Grondahl and another two in the paint for Schroetter stretched it to 49-28.
The Devils made a bit of a run with Trygg back in the game with about 9 minutes to play. The junior grabbed a defensive board and went coast to coast for a quick two points. Shortly after, a Zorman layup was followed by a three point play from Trygg and a three pointer from Kelsey Squires to make it 51-38 with Virginia on a 8-2 run.
That came to a halt with under seven to play as Trygg picked up her fifth foul and fouled out of the contest. The Tigers were able to cruise from there and earn the 62-45 win.
Schroetter led the Tigers with 21, while Fink paced the Devils with 11
Even with Trygg’s limited impact on the game, Devils coach Aune said the loss had more to do with what his team did as opposed to what Cherry did to them.
“Lexiss wasn’t it. They didn’t do anything to us,” Aune said. “We took ourselves out of the game by not boxing out and matching their physicality. Plain and simple. It’s 100% an effort thing. You have to want to be aggressive and want the ball. We’re having too many that just sit back and don’t go all out.
“I want to see more heart from our team. I want to see our girls hold each other accountable and hold themselves accountable. The girls on the court have to make something happen or else they can sit and someone else will come in.”
Aune was able to praise the game of one player and hopes others take notice of her effort Thursday night.
“I thought Izzy [Baggenstoss] came in today and did an excellent job for us. She’s the smallest kid on the floor but was boxing out and being physical and going after the ball. Maybe other girls will notice her and decide that’s something they want to do.”
Coming off of wins over Ely and the Devils this week, Sauter is liking what he’s seeing from his 11-3 squad.
“I liked to see that we can execute a game plan like we did tonight.” Sauter said. “We attacked the middle of their zone and grabbed rebounds and got them out of position. Virginia had some nice looks on offense but we got the stops when we needed to and took advantage on the rebounds.”
Cherry will play host to Littlefork-Big Falls on Tuesday, while Virginia (10-6) will host Chisholm that same evening.
CHS 34 28 — 62
VHS 18 27 — 45
Cherry: Katie Peterson 4, Lauren Staples 11, Karlee Grondahl 10, Danielle Clement 2, Kaelynn Kudis 10, Jessa Schroetter 21, Jillian Sajdak 4; Three pointers: Staples 2, Grondahl 1, Kudis 2; Free throws: 21-33; Total fouls: 11; Fouled out: none.
Virginia: Anna Fink 10, Rian Aune 9, Izzy Baggenstoss 2, Halee Zorman 6, Lexiss Trygg 5, Kaylee Iverson 10, Kelsey Squires 3; Three pointers: Fink 2, Aune 3, Squires 1; Free throws: 3-7; Total fouls: 22; Fouled out: Trygg.