After a deflected pass led to a buzzer-beating defeat the night before versus Kimball Area, Upsala left nothing to chance as it sailed to a 62-50 win over Mora to gain third place in the red bracket of its home holiday tournament, Dec. 28.
Junior Brooke Westrich turned in a supremely efficient night offensively to lead the Cardinals, scoring 19 points on 6-of-8 shooting from the field and 7-of-8 from the free-throw line.
Freshman Katlin Welinski followed suit with 13 points, highlighted by a trio of threes.
Junior Sara Herzog added nine points, senior Kaelin Smieja had eight and sophomore Kiley Smieja scored seven.
Westrich pulled down a team-high seven rebounds and senior Katie Ripplinger and junior Kristin Wuebkers each recorded four steals.
“They were so fired up for the simple reason they thought they should have won that game versus Kimball,” Upsala head coach Paul Pelzer said. “They knew versus Mora they could beat them if they did the simple, basic things like rebound, hold down turnovers and make free throws.
“We played a really good game,” he said. “All those things went our way for a change. They were on a mission to win.”
Upsala’s tournament started with a tough-luck 55-54 loss to Kimball following a Cardinals rally after trailing most of the first half.
Upsala held a one-point lead and the ball in the final minute, but ended up being done in by three missed free throws down the stretch.
Kimball gained possession with nine seconds to play, then had a deflected pass go directly to a post player, who put in a shot with less than a second left for the win.
“Their height affected us the first half, but the girls adjusted the second half to go ahead,” Pelzer said. “I just stressed to the girls they need to box out. If you get inside position on someone, usually good things happen. In the second half we did that.
“It shouldn’t have come down to that (last shot),” he said.
Welinski led the way with 21 points and Kaelin Smieja put in 12, with Westrich totalling four points, 10 rebounds and four steals.
Getting the ball in Welinski’s hands, and keeping her out of foul trouble, is going to be a key factor in the Cardinals’ success moving forward, Pelzer said, as the freshman’s game continues to evolve and flourish.
“I told her a couple games back, ‘You need to start stepping it up because a lot of our success rides on how well you do,’” Pelzer said. “She’s been stepping it up and that’s what we need out of her.
“She’s a talented athlete,” he said. “The thing is, we need to get the ball to her more. When she has the ball, she creates good things and she can score.”
Melrose Area defeated Kimball 42-35 in the finals.
Holdingford captures black bracket title
Holdingford powered its way to first place in the black bracket of the Upsala tournament, rumbling past Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City (ACGC) 57-23 in the semifinals, Dec. 27, before pounding Menahga 46-32 in the finals, Dec. 28.
The Huskers’ defense punished ACGC in the opener, limiting the Falcons to 15 points in the first half and just eight more in the second.
Senior Joelle Ertl finished with 20 points and eight assists for the Huskers, while senior Sam Maciej, junior Kaitlyn Hellmann and freshman Kailee Heinen all added eight points.
It was a similar script the following night, as Holdingford’s offense ran almost exclusively through its top duo, with Ertl netting 28 points and Maciej putting in 14.