WATERTOWN – It was an impressive defensive effort even by Aberdeen Roncalli’s lofty standards.
The Cavaliers did not allow double-digit points in any quarter and moved into the semifinals of the Class A State Girls’ Basketball Tournament following a 45-34 win over Sioux Falls Christian at the Watertown Arena Thursday afternoon.
“We played outrageously on the defensive end,” said Roncalli Coach Derek Larson. “We could not have scripted a better way to finish.”
The Cavaliers led 39-34 with 3 1/1 minutes left and did not allow a single point the rest of the way. Meanwhile, Morgan Fiedler got to the charity stripe where the junior made four key free throws down the stretch to secure the victory.
“I wasn’t shooting free throws very well in practice this week,” Fiedler said. “I just got to the line and gave myself a little pep talk and I just put those in. I didn’t’ worry about anybody else. I just worried about putting those shots in.”
Fiedler caused problems for the SFC defense all game long. She repeatedly beat her defender off the dribble to get into the lane.
“She got in from penetration out of their zone from top down,” Larson said. “She did a really good job of pulling up before she got to (Christian’s 6-foot-2 center) in the post.”
Fiedler, who led Roncalli with 16 points, said the scouting report was that a lane would be open.
“Our coach told us all week that those girls were going to get wide and pressure up top, and there was going to be an opening in the middle and I just had to find that opening and get by them,” Fiedler said. “That’s just what I did. I was going to shoot with confidence and hope that it went in.”
Madelyn Bragg added 14 points to the Roncalli total. She also played a key role on defense and in rebounding.
“She did play a really good game,” Larson said. “Not even so much on the offensive end, but just defensively causing some of their shots to be changed a little bit.”
She also helped the Cavaliers to a 37-27 advantage in rebounds.
“Coach Larson all week emphasized how much we’re going to have to box out, because they’re really aggressive rebounders,” Bragg said. “I feel like we all just had that in our heads that we had to box out and be aggressive getting boards. I feel like we all did that really well.”
Roncalli, which trailed only once at 4-3, had its hands full with Lexi Unruh. The senior standout finished with a game-high 17 points to lead SFC, but no other member of the Crusaders managed more than six.
“We made her earn the points that she got. She hit some tough shots in that first half. That’s just a good quality player,” Larson said. “We didn’t let anyone else kind of go off. That was the key. She got her points, but we did a good job of not letting anyone else do too much.”
Roncalli, 21-2, plays St. Thomas More in the semifinals at 5 tonight. Roncalli lost to STM on a three-pointer in the closing seconds last year in the battle of Cavaliers at Roncalli Gym. It’s a game that the Roncalli players remember well.
“Especially after last year’s upsetting loss to them, we’re just really excited to get in and play and prove everybody wrong,” Bragg said. “We’re the underdog, we always have been and we’re ready to prove people wrong.”
SIOUX FALLS CHRISTIAN (19-4): Kylah VanDonkersgoed 2 0-2 5, Olivia Olson 0 2-2 2, Lexi Unruh 7 2-4 17, Maddie DeJong 2 0-0 6, Moriah Harrison 2 0-2 4. Totals 13-42 4-10 34.
ABERDEEN RONCALLI (21-2): Madelyn Bragg 5 4-7 14, Elissa Hammrich 2 0-0 4, Morgan Fiedler 5 5-7 16, Jeci Ewart 1 0-1 3, Olivia Hanson 2 2-4 8. Totals 15-46 11-19 45.
Sioux Falls Christian 8 17 26 34
Aberdeen Roncalli 12 22 33 45
3-point field goals – VanDonkersgoed, Unruh, DeJong 2; Fiedler, Ewart, Hanson 2. Total fouls – Sioux Falls Christian 17; Aberdeen Roncalli 12. Rebounds – Sioux Falls Christian 27 (VanDonkersgoed 5); Aberdeen Roncalli 37 (Fiedler 10, Hammrich 9). Turnovers – Sioux Falls Christian 8; Aberdeen Roncalli 10.
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