The cost of attending an Our Redeemer's Christian School girls basketball game has certainly proven to be worth the ticket price this season.
For the third time in four home games, the Knights had to fight tooth and nail to come away with a victory. ORCS saw a sizable lead evaporate in the second half, but scratched and clawed its way to a 64-55 win against District 12 foe Glenburn on Tuesday.
One of the smallest players on the court for the Knights - eighth-grade guard Karlee Zablotney - made the biggest impact on defense, matching up with Glenburn junior forward Parker Bush. Despite giving up more than 3 inches to the 5-foot-9 Bush, Zablotney limited her to six points. Her first points came in the second half.
Our Redeemer’s Christian School eighth-grader Karlee Zablotney prepares to shoot in front of Glenburn junior Katie Dufner on Thursday at ORCS.
"Karlee played huge," ORCS coach Kory Nelson said. "She was up for the challenge. We talked about it yesterday in practice and she was up for it. I verified with her before the JV game if she was still looking forward to that challenge and she said she was.
"Parker's a tough player inside, but (Zablotney) does box out well. Her problem is she isn't the tallest one out there so she doesn't always get the rebound. She plays very aggressive and I was pleased with her play."
Said Zablotney: "I was excited because I like challenges and I like guarding post players."
Zablotney contributed on the offensive end, too. She scored the first and last points of the game at the free-throw line and scored eight points in between to finish with 10.
Neither team shot the ball particularly well in the first half. ORCS freshmen guards Morgan Olson and Emily Maasjo and Glenburn junior guard Sam Koetter were the only players to hit more than one shot in the opening 16 minutes.
The Panthers (1-9 overall, 0-4 district) led by as many as five in the second quarter, but turnovers allowed the Knights to pull even at 23 with 1:09 left in the half. ORCS closed the first half on a 9-0 run to take a 29-23 lead at intermission.
The Knights (8-6, 2-2) ballooned their lead in the third quarter, scoring 14 of the first 20 points. A basket and free throw by ORCS junior forward McKensie Popinga gave the Knights their largest lead of the game at 43-29.
Glenburn responded with a 13-0 run to end the quarter and tied the game with 5:49 remaining. The Panthers pulled even three times in the final frame, but couldn't grab the lead. Two of Olson's game-high 30 points broke the first tie, junior guard Gabi Boeckel's lone basket broke the second and Olson gave the Knights the lead for good with less than four minutes left.
"Both teams played really well tonight," Glenburn coach Cassie Leraas said. "They were aggressive. (ORCS) knocked down shots when they needed to and we turned the ball over a little more than I'd like."
Glenburn junior forward Katie Dufner hit a 3-pointer to get within one, but Olson and senior guard Jenny Skees hit back-to-back 3s for a seven-point lead. Skees finished with 10 points.
ORCS' full-court pressure forced Glenburn into 30 turnovers, including a few big ones in the final minutes.
"We've gotta get to pressing," Nelson said. "It's kind of our bread and butter. We're not big inside so we have to hound them as much as we can and wear them out and hope it works in our favor."
Glenburn junior guard Maddie Heinle finished with a team-high 15 points, nine of which came in the third quarter.
Glenburn hosts Powers Lake tonight and ORCS travels to Des Lacs-Burlington on Monday.
Mike Kraft covers high school athletics and hockey. Follow him on Twitter @MKraft23-MDN.