The Sleepy Eye Indians girls basketball team faced off against the St. Mary's Knights Monday, Jan. 9, at St. Mary's. The boys' crosstown game, scheduled for Tuesday, was postponed due to weather and will be announced at a later date.

The Sleepy Eye Indians girls basketball team faced off against the St. Mary’s Knights Monday, Jan. 9, at St. Mary’s. The boys’ crosstown game, scheduled for Tuesday, was postponed due to weather and will be announced at a later date.

While both teams seemed a bit off, and had a few players recovering from sickness and injuries, the energy in the room was palpable before the whistle even blew.

In the opening minutes both teams struggled with communication and passing. The Indians pulled ahead and held a two-point lead until Knight Jenny Lax shot a layup to tie the game at 10-10. The tie was short lived however, as Indian McKenzie Cselovszki sunk a free throw.

After a brief back and forth exchange of points, Knight Jody Hansen shot a two-pointer, was fouled and sunk the free throw to put the Knights in the lead, 17-15. What followed was almost four minutes of running back and forth, up and down the court, with no scoring and exchanged rebounds. Enter Indian M’Kayla Mike who put up a shot to tie the game and set her team up for the run that followed.

The Knights were not prepared for the push that came from Indians Brianna Polesky, Sarah Ibarra and Madison Heiderscheidt. Zeroing in on some very effective passes and a turnover, the Indians went on a 13-point run, taking a strong lead as the clock ran down.

“We went almost seven minutes without scoring a point and that hurt us,” said Knights coach Bruce Woitas. “After the tie, we only scored two points before the half ended.”

Lax put up one shot during the final moments of the first half for the Knights. Before the clock could run down, Indian Cassidy Hacker found the hoop, putting the score at 30-19, Indians. “Not taking a break over the holidays really helped,” said Ibarra. “We did a lot of open gym to stay focused.”

“I really liked the energy our bench gave to us tonight,” said Indian coach Ryan Hulke. “M'Kayla Mike has been giving us great minutes since Christmas break, along with Madi K., Hanna, Cassidy and Jaidyn McGee. Those five, along with Courtney Dittbenner and Mariah Miller, are always giving us quality minutes and we won’t be as successful as we are without all of them.”

The second half kicked off with Knights Lax and Hansen fighting to get to the hoop and score in between Ibarra’s buckets. After Anna Lux sunk two free throws, Indian Heiderscheidt put up six consecutive points. Cassie Heinrichs came back off the bench to sink two three-pointers for the Knights.

With the score sitting at 44-32, Indians Hannah Himmelman and Madison Krueger put eight points on the board, giving the Indians a 20 point lead. At this point the Knights attempted one final push, starting with Megan Labat sinking two free throws, to regain ground.

The Knights regained the eight points they were behind by, but in the end the momentum they lost was too great to overcome. The final moments of the game were an exchange of points with Knight Sydney Windschitl shooting two free throws to end the game at 60-48, Indians.

“We couldn’t overcome the lead in the second half,” said coach Woitas.

This victory marks a milestone in the career of Sleepy Eye Head Coach Ryan Hulke as his 100th win. “I’ve been with Sleepy Eye for five years and 12 games, so that’s about 20 wins a season, and that’s what I’m most happy about,” Hulke said. “Winning 20 games at any level is an accomplishment in itself. I would just like to say thanks to all my current and former players and parents, school and booster club members for helping our girls basketball program throughout the years.”

Top scorers for the Knights were: Lux and Heinrichs with 12, and Lax with 10. Indians top scorers were: Ibarra—21, Heiderscheidt—10, and Polesky—eight.

The Knights will play MVL on Thursday, Jan. 12 at 7:30 p.m. at home.

The Indians will host GFW on Thursday, Jan. 12 at 7:30 p.m.