Class A State Quarterfinals: Sleepy Eye Indians 53, Ada-Borup Cougars 51

Sleepy Eye Indians 53  Ada-Borup Cougars 51

As the Sleepy Eye Indians girls basketball team was making their second state tournament appearance in three years, this one was different. They were healthy. They were experienced. They were ready to show what they could do. They’ve been here before. Now the state knows what they can do.

The Indians (27-4) showed just what they were capable of doing as they knocked off the third-seeded Ada-Borup/Norman County West Cougars in the Class A quarterfinals Thursday night at Williams Arena. While the Indians got the win, it wasn’t easy. Nothing in March is. After a hot start from senior Madi Heiderscheidt in the first half kept the Indians in it, it took the entire team to hold off the talented and experienced Cougars.

“Our seniors have been our core all year,” Sleepy Eye coach Ryan Hulke said. “Their leadership really showed tonight. I’m extremely proud of the way they battled. (I) couldn’t be more proud of them.”

While it wasn’t the greatest of starts for the Indians in their first game of the state tournament, Heiderscheidt stepped up and carried the load in the first half for her team.

“I’ve always felt like a leader for my team,” Heiderscheidt said. “I try to do whatever I can, whenever I can to stay in the ball game. Tonight, I did have to score. A couple of girls weren’t hitting their shots, but luckily mine were. That’s what I had to do tonight.”

Heiderscheidt scored 18 first-half points, including a deep three-pointer at the buzzer to give Sleepy Eye a 27-25 lead at the break.

“I’m glad Madi got to show the state what she’s about,” Hulke said. “She’s one of the top players in Class A. She obviously showed that.”

The Indians kept things rolling in the right direction to open the second half following the Heiderscheidt buzzer-beater. A floater in the lane by Heiderscheidt gave the Indians their biggest lead of the game, and it was time for her teammates to help her along.

A big reason for the strong push to open the second half came from seniors Mya Ibberson and McKenzie Cselovszki. With Ibberson’s ability to play inside and out, along with Cselovszki’s ability to power her way inside, the Indians have a nice one-two punch.

“Mya does a great job of getting us into a five out,” Hulke said. “She can post up and shoot the ball. Then Mac (Cselovszki) can come in and just bang away. At 5-foot-8, she uses her body well. They’re a great one-two combo for us at the five spot.”

Ibberson also hand her hands full on the defensive end with Ada-Borup’s Kora Kritzberger. Kritzberger scored 17 first half points, but Ibberson was up to the challenge of shutting her down in the second by limiting to her to just four second-half points.

“She’s a beast,” Hulke said about Kritzberger. “She’s a very good basketball player. She was big in the first half for them. We just had to know where she was at all times in the second half. We wanted to contest her. I thought Mya did a great job in the second half of just contesting everything.”

“It wasn’t anything I haven’t seen before,” Ibberson said. “I’ve played against girls who are taller and bigger than she was. You just take it a play at a time.”

With the Indians playing tough defense, Cselovszki continued to provide that spark for the Indians. She scored eight second-half points for the Indians, despite fouling out with more than five minutes left in the game.

“It just shows that we’re a team,” Cselovszki said. “Everyone can chip in. It’s not just Madi. It’s everybody on the team that plays. Even the bench helps us, too. I just go in there and give 100 percent. I just want to help my team get the win in the end.”

With Cselovszki on the bench with five fouls, the Cougars began to cut into the Indians’ lead. A bucket from Brooklyn Erickson trimmed the deficit to just one, forcing Hulke to call a timeout.

Hulke drew up the perfect play out of the timeout as Heiderscheidt found Sarah Ibarra on the backside for the easy bucket, extending the lead to three with just under two minutes to go.

After Ibarra split a pair of free throws, the Indians were looking good with a four-point lead and just over one minute to go. The Cougars had other ideas.

After a missed free throw from Heiderscheidt, the Cougars struck again as Mariah McKeever knocked down a clutch 3-pointer to put the Cougars up one with 32 seconds left to go. Instead of pouting about the missed free throw, Heiderscheidt delivered in the clutch like she has all season long for the Indians.

Following the bucket from McKeever, Heiderscheidt went coast-to-coast for the bucket, putting the Indians back up by one, with 22 seconds left. She wasn’t done there, though. With just seconds remaining, Heiderscheidt collected the biggest steal of her career, sending her back to the line with a chance to seal it.

“You can watch her all night,” Hulke said. “She’s just sitting their licking her lips waiting for that pass to happen. She could see it all night. She was waiting and waiting. I actually looked at Sydney (assistant coach Geiger) at the time, and told her we need a Madi steal and layup here. Then it literally happened right there. She’s a great anticipator on that zone when we do we play it. She made some big plays for us.”

Heiderscheidt would split another pair of free throws, but the Cougars’ desperation attempt at the buzzer fell short as the Indians completed the upset to move on to the Class A semifinals.

“It’s great,” Heiderscheidt said about getting the win on the big stage. “I just got to do whatever helps my team win. If I have to score one night, then that’s what I got to do. It’s a team effort all around, though.”

A familiar opponent awaits the Indians in the Class A semifinals. They’ll face second-seeded Mountain Iron-Buhl for a shot to go to the state championship game. The Rangers (29-2) knocked off Sleepy Eye in the Class A quarterfinals in 2016, and will be looking to get some revenge this time around.

“Jeff (head coach Buffetta) does a great job,” Hulke said. “It’s Mt. Iron-Buhl. They’re the machine of Class A. We’re going to have to sit down and compete. Mary Burke is as good as they come. They have some great pieces to go with her. Jeff does a great job. They get in your face defensively, so we’ll have to take care of the basketball.”

While the Indians lost to them in their last meeting at the state tournament, Heiderscheidt, who missed that game with her ACL injury, is more than excited to get on the court to show what her and her team can do.

“I’m very excited to play them knowing I didn’t play the last time we were here,” Heiderscheidt said. “We had a great matchup with them in the summer. We actually beat them, and I know that doesn’t mean much, but we’re really excited for this matchup.”

INDIANS: 27;26;—53

Brianna Polesky 1, Madi Heiderscheidt 25, Sarah Ibarra 6, Mya Ibberson 10, McKenzie Cselovszki 11.

COUGARS: 25;26;—51, Olivia Winfrey 2, Brooklyn Erickson 11, Kora Kritzberger 21, Mariah McKeever 12, Maddie Smart 4, Ivy Johnson 1.