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Comets deny upset-minded Warriors

waldorf-warriors-outline_1By Aaron Schneider

FOREST CITY – Mayville State University escaped with a 76-71 North Star Athletic Association (NSAA) win over the Waldorf College women’s basketball team on Saturday.

“Our girls played extremely well,” Waldorf coach Katie Schutjer said. “It’s evident that the team chemistry is getting better and their confidence level is rising.”

Samantha Birkes tallied a career-high 20 points to lead the Warriors (1-15, 0-8). The 5-foot-9 freshman guard from Sioux City sank 7-of-13 (53.8 percent) attempts from the field, hit 5-of-9 shots (55.6 percent) from downtown and dished out six assists.

Waldorf’s Jessica Denholm also posted a career-high, netting 18 points and also handed out five assists. The 5-foot-7 sophomore guard from Valley City, North Dakota. knocked down 7-of-17 (41.2 percent) shots from the floor and went 4-of-11 (36.4 percent) behind the arc.

Freshman Kassidy Bunger added nine points for the Warriors. Freshmen Taylor Fricke and Taylor Kurtz notched eight points apiece. Freshman Ameh Ogbemudia contributed six points and junior Jenna Quina rounded out the scoring effort with two points.

Waldorf shot 16-of-33 (48.5 percent) from the field and 8-of-16 (50 percent) from 3-point range in the first half to gain a 41-35 lead at halftime.

“We had some kids knock down tough shots and we shot the three well, which is going to enhance play and encourage kids to rise to the occasion and we did,” Schutjer said.

The Comets (11-5, 3-0) converted 15-of-33 (45.5 percent) shots from the floor in the second half to seal the victory. Mayville State finished the game 28-of-68 (41.2 percent) from the field while Waldorf hit 27-of-66 (40.9 percent) from the floor.

The Warriors found their rhythm from 3-point land, sinking 14 (42.4 percent) of their 33 opportunities. Mayville State entered the game ranked sixth in Division II of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) in 3-point field-goal percentage with a 37.6-percent shooting clip. The Waldorf defense held the Comets to an 8-of-26 (30.8-percent) effort from the perimeter.

“They doubled down inside all night and I felt we kicked out well to the perimeter, especially in the second half,” Schutjer said.

Mayville State found the free-throw line 15 times and converted on 12 (80 percent) of its attempts. Waldorf made 3-of-5 (60 percent) shots from the charity stripe.

The Comets did their damage in the post, outscoring the Warriors 40-14 in the paint. Weber contributed two blocks for Mayville State.

Waldorf denied several opportunities down low as the Warriors racked up eight blocks. Ogbemudia and freshman Meriel Leavy tallied three blocks apiece.

The Comets and the Warriors each turned the ball over 13 times. Waldorf outscored Mayville State 17-16 in points off turnovers.

The Warriors opened the game using 3-pointers to their advantage, knocking down four shots from downtown to gain a 12-5 lead with 6 minutes, 45 seconds remaining in the first quarter. Mayville State used a 9-1 run to go in front 14-13, but Waldorf scored 10 consecutive points with a pair of layups from Denholm and a pair of 3-pointers from Birkes to build a 23-14 advantage. The Comets cut the lead to 23-19 by the end of the first quarter.

Waldorf scored the first seven points of the second quarter and led by as many as 12 points before closing the half with a 41-35 lead.

Fricke scored the first bucket of the third quarter, but Mayville State notched eight straight points to even the score at 43-all with 7:19 left in the quarter. The Comets expanded their lead to six points before the Warriors knotted the score at 54-all after three quarters.

The first eight minutes of the fourth quarter consisted of four lead changes, three ties and neither team ever led by more than four points. Denholm broke a 68-all score with a 3-pointer, lifting her team in front 71-68 with 2:13 remaining.

Weber added a bucket with 34 seconds remaining to cut Waldorf’s lead to one point. Following a five-second violation against the Warriors, Hoglo delivered a go-ahead layup with 20 seconds remaining. Waldorf was forced to foul, but the Comets hit two free throws to ice the win.

The Warriors were defeated 92-57 by Mayville State on Dec. 5 at Mayville, North Dakota. Pushing the Comets to the brink the second time around, Waldorf looks to build on the strong performance as the Warriors host Dakota State University (10-7, 2-0)  in Tuesday’s 5:30 p.m. conference matchup.

“We made huge strides, but have to continue to stay the course with the goal of coming out with a win,” Schutjer said.

“This was another step in the right direction.”