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Staples-Motley to take on Sauk Centre in 6AA final

Staples-Motley advanced to the Section 6AA girls' basketball final by defeating Benson Tuesday in the West championship. Meanwhile, Sauk Centre downed New London-Spicer in the East on the way to Friday's title game at St. Cloud State's Halenback

Staples-Motley 57

Benson 53

Staples-Motley defeated Benson 57-53 Tuesday at the University of Minnesota, Morris to win the Section 6AA-West title.

In the last 14 minutes of the second half, neither team had more than a six-point lead, which belonged to the Braves. In the final 6:20, the biggest lead was four.

It came down to one key sequence: a jump ball call to Staples-Motley with 48 seconds left and the subsequent basket by eighth-grader Jaelin Beachy to break the tie.

The Braves had spent the last two minutes trailing the Cardinals, when Emily Auch completed a 4-0 run to tie the game.

The Cardinals counterpunched with Nikki Pearson's three-pointer with 1:50 left to take a 53-50 lead. But Benson came right back with Julia Ahrndt's three-point hook to tie the game.

After a Benson timeout, a Staples-Motley player slipped in to tie up the ball with 48.2 seconds left. With the possession arrow not pointing in the Braves' direction, the Cardinals gained the advantage.

Fourteen seconds later, Beachy, the daughter of Staples-Motley head coach Arden Beachy, made the shot to give the Cardinals the lead. Abby Smith made two free throws to seal the win.

Benson controlled most of the first half and held a 24-18 lead at halftime. To start the second half, the Braves went on a 9-0 run to take a 29-20 lead. Staples-Motley rattled off seven straight points to reel Benson back in. Later, the Braves had two 6-point leads, only to have the last one cut in half by Jasmine McGillvray's three-pointer.

Pearson led Staples-Motley with 14 points, followed by McGillvray with 12, all on three-pointers.

Auch led all scorers with 17 points and Ahrndt had 14, including four 3-pointers.

Sauk Centre 45

New London-Spicer 32

Maren Greenwaldt drained four 3-pointers on the way to 18 points and Kali Peschel added 17 points as Sauk Centre defeated New London-Spicer 45-32 for the Section 6AA-East title Tuesday night at St. John's University.

Greenwaldt and Peschel alone outpointed the Wildcats' offense, which made 13-of-44 shots (29.5 percent) and coughed up the ball 13 times.

This was the rubber game of three meetings between the West Central Conference North co-champions and the one that mattered most.

The Wildcats upended the Mainstreeters 45-41 in New London on Feb. 23, Sauk Centre's first loss after 23 wins to start the season. Sauk Centre had won the first meeting 63-58 on Jan. 19.

The No. 1-ranked Wildcats led only once, 3-2, on Justine Dammermann's trey at 15:17. It was a good start, but New London-Spicer would sink only one more three-pointer and trailed 23-17 at halftime.

Out of the locker room, Karli Wendlandt, the Wildcats' senior forward, busted inside for a pair of baskets to close the gap to two points, 23-21. But Peschel, a 6-foot sophomore guard, answered with three straight baskets on equally aggressive moves to pull ahead 30-21. Greenwaldt drained a three-pointer for a 10-point lead.

The Wildcats, who were seeded behind Sauk Centre in the sub-section, never got closer than eight points the rest of the way.

Long-range shooters Taylor Thompsen, Dammermann and Cassie Ziemer got few good looks from beyond the arc.

Wendlandt finished with 12 points, Abbey Knisely and Dammermann had seven each. Ziemer and Wendlandt each grabbed seven rebounds.

The Wildcats got to the line just seven times and made four.

Sauk Centre returned four starters from the squad that lost to the Wildcats at this same juncture a year ago on this court, 51-29. New London-Spicer went on to place third at the state tournament.