Article by Harry Lipsiea, Devils Lake Journal Sports, February 12th, 2017.
The Lake Region State College women's basketball team played the Mon-Dak Conference's top squad Sunday afternoon at home. Despite a slow start, the Royals showed that they can play with anyone when everything is clicking.
In the final 20 minutes, LRSC payed most likely its finest basketball in the season outscoring North Dakota State College of Science 38-26.
The big first half by the Wildcats, however, turned out to be the difference. NDSCS, 24-2, picked up a 62-53 victory against a hard-charging Lake Region State College team.
Despite the loss, LRSC head coach Danny Mertens noted that the team's second-half performance was extremely encouraging.
"Our energy and effort in that second half was just phenomenal," the coach told the Journal. "Defensively, we were so solid. Then on offense, I thought we did such a better job of moving the ball and setting screens. Again, it was a case of our defensive stops leading to points on the other end."
The Royals hope the momentum from their performance late against the Mon-Dak's top team carries forward. There were so many positive things to take away, Mertens said.
"One of the things I loved to see was our bench's energy. It was so good to see our entire team feed off of each other," the coach said. "If we continue to have the positive energy and keep having that positive encouragement, good things will happen. I can't say enough about the positive energy from our bench in the second half."
Down 36-15 at the half, the Royals got out to a hot start in the third quarter. Early buckets by Emily Schafer, Cassidy Nelson and Helen Schuster cut NDSCS's lead to 12 points midway through the period. The Wildcats held a 45-32 lead going into the fourth.
The Royals charged forward in the fourth. Inside buckets by Mer Gach and Emily Schafer got the home team within seven points. LRSC got as close as five points twice as Nelson and Schafer added baskets.
That, however, was as close as NDSCS would get as Dayuna Johnson and Zae Sellers added free throws. In the end, the Wildcats earned the 62-53 victory.
With the loss, LRSC dropped to 14-10 on the season. The message in the locker room was simple: We can play with anyone.
"Our goals are still on the table," Mertens stated. "It doesn't matter who it is, we have played with every single team in the conference."
The Royals travel to South Dakota Tuesday for a showdown with Northern State JV. On Sunday, LRSC clashes with United Tribes Technical College at home.
"Our hope is that the momentum from our last half of basketball continues to carry over," the coach said.