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Cavaliers rally for win over West Central

Aberdeen Roncalli’s Olivia Hanson, left, goes up with a shot as Clark/Willow Lake’s Musonda Kabwe, center, during Thursday night’s game at the Roncalli High School gym. Looking on are the Cavaliers’ Ella Hanson, right and the Cyclones’ Summer Seefeldt, far right. Hanson scored 29 points in a victory over West Central in Madison on Saturday. Photo by John Davis taken 2/3/2022

Aberdeen Roncalli had a forgettable start, to be sure, but rallied for a memorable end Saturday night as the Class B top-ranked Cavaliers upended Class A No. 2 West Central by a 55-52 count at the NEC-Dak XII Clash in Madison.

“We played well beyond the first quarter,” said Roncalli coach Derek Larson.

Roncalli, which is notoriously quick to build a lead in the first quarter, had the tables turned in Saturday’s contest, as West Central sprinted out to the early advantage.

“We gave up four straight layups because we didn’t keep our girl in front of us,” Larson said. “That was one of the keys we talked about before the game. We can’t give up dribble drives. Then we go and give up four layups on four straight possessions.”

That led to a 26-point outburst from the Trojans in the opening stanza and a 13-point deficit for the Cavaliers.

But Roncalli would not be kept at bay for long. The Cavaliers settled in defensively, giving up less than 10 points per quarter the rest of the way.

“After that, we really settled in and did a really good job on the defensive end,” Larson said.

The Cavaliers came alive on the offensive end as well, fueled by a huge night from senior Olivia Hanson, who had 29 points by the time the night ended. Hanson had 17 at the half, then hit 10 more in the fourth quarter to help spur a Cavalier comeback as Roncalli trailed by four after the third period.

“I don’t think she ever knew how many points she had,” Larson said. “She hit a lot of shots for us, had a lot of offensive rebounds and putbacks. It just seemed that at any point, we could rely on her hitting a shot when we needed one.”

But on a night when free throws were a scarce commodity, it was Morgan Fiedler who hit a pair of critical free throws in the game’s final minute that sealed the win for Roncalli.

The Cavaliers had built a five-point lead in the fourth, but saw West Central make one last push, cutting the margin to a single point. An offensive rebound from Madelyn Bragg off a missed free throw led to two more opportunities for Fiedler, who drilled both foul shots to give Roncalli a three-point lead.

The Chargers got one last look at the basket from three-point range, but misfired, leaving Roncalli with the win.

“That was a big one,” Larson said. “We lost to these guys last year, and the way the game started, I’m sure some people were like, ‘Here we go again.’ ”

Roncalli will have little time to celebrate the victory, as the Cavaliers head to Groton for a Northeast Conference rivalry game on Monday. Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m.

WEST CENTRAL (16-2): Rylee Haldeman 6 1-3 16, Tabor Teel 7 5-6 20, Addy Kramer 5 0-0 13, Tessa VanOverbeke 1 1-3 3. Totals 19 7-12 52.

ABERDEEN RONCALLI (14-1): Madelyn Bragg 6 0-0 12, Allie Morgan 1 0-0 3, Morgan Fiedler 2 2-3 8, Olivia Hanson 13 0-0 29, Ava Hanson 1 1-2 3. Totals 23 3-5 55.

West Central 26 36 45 52

Aberdeen Roncalli 13 27 41 55

3-pt FG – Haldeman 3, Teel, Kramer 3; Morgan, Fiedler 2, O. Hanson 3. Fouls – West Central 11; Aberdeen Roncalli 15.

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