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Balanced effort leads UMC to its first win, 66-63 over Northern State

Jacob Shames
Crookston Times
Jes Mertens had eight points and seven steals as Minnesota Crookston won its first game of the season, 66-63 over Northern State on Friday.

The Minnesota Crookston women's basketball team knew it would be shorthanded Friday.

The Golden Eagles were without junior Bren Fox, their third-leading scorer and leading rebounder, in addition to junior Julia Peplinski, who had missed their previous four games as well. Without the two main low-post presences, UMC needed to find a way to win.

That, it did, doing so in a fashion that, while not dominant and not always pretty, was indisputably cohesive and egalitarian.

The Golden Eagles beat Northern State, 66-63, at Lysaker Gymnasium, winning their first game of the 2021 season behind four double-digit scorers, led by sophomore guard Emma Carpenter's 16 points and redshirt sophomore forward Mary Burke's 15.

"You have to go with the people that you have," said coach Mike Roysland. "It's all about the team, if we can get this done together as a team."

At first, Minnesota Crookston's defense controlled the game. The Golden Eagles (1-4, 1-2 NSIC) held the Wolves to just three baskets in the first quarter and forced seven turnovers as well.

But UMC committed seven first-quarter turnovers of its own, keeping Northern State (1-2, 0-1) in position to come back. The Wolves took the lead late in the second quarter and held it for nearly 20 minutes, stretching their advantage to as much as 40-30 with 4:39 left in the third quarter.

It was Northern State's advantage inside that propelled this run. Against the undersized Golden Eagles, the Wolves won the battle in the paint, with 26 points from that area on the court.

But Alayna Johnson's basket to give NSU its largest lead of the night set off a chain reaction of sorts, where one UMC player stepped up, then followed by another.

First, it was Alyssa Peterson. The sophomore guard immediately knocked down a 3-pointer to cut the lead to seven, and followed that with a second trey to cap off an 8-0 run. She'd finish with 10 points.

Then, it was Burke, who had an answer seemingly every time the Wolves threatened to pull away. She scored 12 of her 15 points in the fourth quarter, including an NBA-range 3-pointer with 7:27 remaining to cut the lead to 52-51.

Carpenter, who in the absence of Fox and Peplinski served as a de facto post threat, lived in the high seam all game long. Her passing ability from there helped open up UMC's offense, as did her shooting. She hit a 3-pointer and went 4-for-4 from the free-throw line in the final five minutes, including the two free throws that gave the Golden Eagles the lead for good with 4:31 to play.

Alyssa Peterson follows through on her free throw attempt.

"When we get it inside-out, make good choices on offense, and we don't turn it over, (that's) when we're successful," she said. "... We had good composure and we stuck it out through the whole game."

UMC's play in the clutch, primarily at the free-throw line and on defense, cemented the win. It went 7-of-8 from the line in the final five minutes, and forced seven NSU turnovers in the fourth quarter (and 25 for the game).

"I thought the defensive effort was phenomenal," Roysland said. "We had a lot of kids getting on the floor, and I was amazed that we were able to rebound the ball as well as we did, being as small as we were."

Freshman guard Jes Mertens, who had a whopping seven steals, poked the ball loose on a drive with 36 seconds to play to preserve a 63-61 Golden Eagle lead. Carpenter then knocked down two free throws and Burke hit one of two, sandwiched around a pair of free throws for the Wolves' Rianna Fillipi.

This gave Northern State a final chance to tie, but Burke came up with a steal to end the game.

"There's a lot of different people that really stepped up at different occasions," Roysland said. "We needed the whole team to do something, and that's what we got."

UP NEXT: The Golden Eagles and the Wolves play again at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.

"They're gonna make some adjustments, we're gonna make some adjustments," Roysland said. "... I think there's a lot of things that we can clean up to give ourselves a better opportunity. What I'm hoping for is that this will give us some confidence that we know how to win."

Mary Burke drives down the lane.

BOX SCORE

Minnesota Crookston 11-17-13-25—66

Northern State 10-19-15-19—63

MINNESOTA CROOKSTON STATS

  • Points: Emma Carpenter 16, Mary Burke 15, Kylie Post 11, Alyssa Peterson 10, Jes Mertens 8
  • Rebounds:  Kylie Post 7, Eden Golliher 5, Emma Carpenter 3
  • Assists: Emma Carpenter 3, Jes Mertens 3, Alyssa Peterson 2
  • Steals: Jes Mertens 7, Mary Burke 3
  • Team: 21-53 field goals, 10-25 3-pointers, 14-19 free throws

NORTHERN STATE STATS

  • Points: Lexi Wadsworth 18, Rianna Fillipi 16, Avery Terwilliger 9
  • Rebounds: Joie Speier 7, Alayna Johnson 5, Haley Johnson 5
  • Assists: Rianna Fillipi 4, Shariah Smith 2
  • Steals: Rianna Fillipi 6, Haley Johnson 3
  • Team: 22-50 field goals, 6-21 3-pointers, 13-23 free throws

The Times welcomes your feedback. You can send any comments or questions to our office at (218) 281-2730 or sports editor Jacob Shames at jshames@crookstontimes.com.

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