December 11, 2014 at 1:31 p.m.
Pressure defense and some timely baskets by senior captain Sarah Greene and freshman phenom Carmen Backes led the Wildcats to a season opening win over the Blaine Bengals.
The home game kicked off with some nice trap defense that created easy baskets for both Backes and Greene.
Chisago Lakes’ effort was aided by the fact that the Bengals couldn’t hit a basket when they did hold on to the ball. They shot 17 percent in the first half.
Those factors combined for a 17 point halftime lead for the Wildcats at 35-18. Greene and Backes scored 28 of those 35 points.
It was a ho-hum second half, with the Wildcats keeping their comfortable lead throughout and ending with a 13 point victory.
Backes had a game-high 24 points to go along with six rebounds and two assists. Greene was close to a triple double, netting 18 points, grabbing 10 rebounds and nabbing six steals.
“This was a good opener for us. We played eleven kids and were able to run a variety of things offensively and defensively,” Head Coach Craig Walker said. “We now have an idea of what we need to work on as we build our team for the season without Bry Fernstrom in the post. Sally Nelson and Ali Carlson also played well in their first career starts.”
Chisago Lakes 52, Duluth Denfeld 34
The Wildcats used a career performance by junior point guard Sally Nelson to propel them to section win over Duluth Denfeld on Friday, December 5.
Nelson, who played sparingly last year but will be counted on much more this year, scored a game-high 16 points to go along with three rebounds and two steals.
Her offensive outburst included 10 points in the first half, which paced the ‘Cats to a 27-16 lead.
It was a welcome sight for Walker, who thought most of the team was a bit worn down after the long bus ride.
“The girls played like they rode the bus for two hours,” he said. “Due to scheduling and gym space, we had to wait around for two hours when we got there.”
In the second half, things stayed the same as the Wildcats added to their lead throughout, despite some foul trouble for Backes.
Greene had another monster statline, scoring 11 points, grabbing 11 boards to go with eight steals.
Backes had eight points and five rebounds, Dani Berg had seven points and Carlson had four steals, four points and three rebounds in the 52-34 win.
Chisago Lakes 64, Superior (WI) 62
The second leg of the girl’s trip north took them to Superior, Wisconsin to take on Wisconsin’s big school runner-up in their last season’s state tournament. This is the third meeting of these state tournament teams with the Wildcats winning an overtime thriller last season in Lindstrom. “I really enjoy this rivalry. Coach Roe does a great job with his program and they get in your face defensively,” Walker said. “It’s a great game for us to prepare for the M8 and the rest of our schedule.”
The Wildcats came out and dominated the first quarter -- playing in Wisconsin means four quarters instead of two halves. Greene dominated things early forcing turnovers, dishing assists to her teammates and scoring. Backes took over the scoring burden, adding eight first quarter points and a four-point play as the Wildcats built a 11-1 lead and a 22-5 lead eventually leading 22-10 at the end of the first quarter.
The Spartans were cold, shooting four of 23 with two threes and their star Alyssa Correll was held scoreless. The second quarter was much closer with the ‘Cats able to score from the free throw line and the Spartans adding two more threes while ending the half with six straight points.
“We were sloppy with the ball at the end of the quarter and they were able to score six points off three turnovers late,” Walker noted.
The Spartans built on their momentum and took over in the third quarter outscoring the Wildcats 12-2 in a minute and a half stretch. Superior went on to outscore CL 25-10 in the quarter. “They are a good team who presses most of the time. We didn’t execute or press break as we had in the first half and they took advantage,” said Walker.
Mackenzie Kmeick made a four-point play of her own to bring the Spartans all the way back to tie the score at 45-45. The game was then back and forth for the rest of the second half. The Spartans took the lead for a short time 60-59 with 2:39 remaining in the game on a three by Ellie Leadstrom, their eight three pointer of the game.
Greene scored on a reverse lay-up on the Wildcat’s next possession to retake the lead 61-60. Greene again made a defensive play with a steal on the Spartans’ ensuing possession. The Wildcats however turned to ball over giving the Spartans another chance for the lead. Taylor Schuster hit a basket from in close as the lead went back to Superior.
Berg, a senior captain, picked a great time to score her only two points of the game from the baseline which ended up being the winner for the Wildcats. Alli Carlson added a free throw after the cats were able to take 1:30 off the clock in a single possession giving CL a 64-62 lead with 22 seconds remaining.
The Spartans had two chances to either win or tie and were unsuccessful on both. Backes blocked Superior’s last attempt in what looked like the game tying basket off a baseline inbounds play from in close.
“Another great game in our series. We were kind of waiting for them to wake up offensively. Correll struggled in the first half with Sally, Heather, and Julia defending her, but they definitely woke up in the third quarter,” Walker said. “Carmen and Sarah played well along with Alli Carlson. We were able to score inside with our height advantage, but just not enough in the second half as we turned the ball over way too much. But we got the win and this game will go a long way for our confidence.”