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Passa comes up big in 42-29 win over DLB

Justin Martinez/MDN Velva’s Emma Passa (34) drives to the rim as DLB’s Shelby Ruden defends her during the Aggies’ 42-29 road win Thursday.

BURLINGTON — When the game is on the line, feed the ball to Emma Passa.

That’s the strategy the Velva girls basketball team (16-2, 4-2 District 11) implemented down the stretch on Thursday as they attempted to walk out of Burlington with a win against a determined Lakers squad (14-4, 6-1 District 12) on Senior Night. After leading comfortably all game, Passa and the Aggies were forced to fend off a late DLB comeback to secure a hard-earned 42-29 victory.

“I thought the girls played well and matched (DLB’s) intensity,” Velva head coach Chris Braaten said. “Coming into another team’s Senior Night is a mountain to climb, so we knew it was going to be a battle. It was a good win.”

Defense was the name of the game from the start for both teams as they battled to a six-point stalemate at the end of the first quarter.

It wasn’t until the second frame that the Aggies found their stride as a group offensively. Five different Velva players got on the board, and the road team refused to give up easy buckets on the other end to take a 17-12 lead at halftime.

“We had a few shots that just didn’t fall in the first half,” Braaten said. “But the girls did a really nice job defensively of contesting without fouling. Sometimes it can be easy to get into foul trouble, so I thought they played smart.”

After scoring just four points in the first half, Passa began to take over in the third quarter. The junior racked up all of Velva’s 10 points with a series of put-back jumpers and tough layups to push her team’s lead to 27-18.

But the Lakers weren’t ready to throw in the towel. Now trailing 29-18 in the final frame, DLB’s Kyley Lauf willed her team back into the game.

The senior scored a quick six points, and junior Sara Bonn added a triple in what was a 9-4 DLB run to make it a 33-27 game with just 3:33 left to play.

“DLB is just a tough, athletic team,” Braaten said. “They’re used to being in big-time games and they’ve battled good teams throughout the season, so it didn’t surprise me at all that they fought back. It says a lot about their kids and their coaching staff.”

Like clockwork, Passa responded. The junior scored Velva’s next seven points, which was highlighted by a deep three from the shoulder that silenced the crowd, to push the Aggies’ lead back up to 40-29 with just over a minute remaining.

Velva held the Lakers scoreless in the final two and a half minutes and escaped with the 42-29 win. Passa led all scorers with 20 points on a night where the junior proved once again to be arguably the most explosive scorer in the region.

“(Passa) runs the floor really well for us,” Braaten said. “She’s a dual threat because she can hit from the outside and go hard inside. She plays to her skill sets, and it’s always fun to watch.”

Lauf finished with 14 points for the Lakers in their regular-season finale, while Bonn chipped in nine points. DLB will enter the District 12 tournament as the second seed.

The Aggies will enter the District 11 tournament as the second seed, but they’ll first look to wrap up their regular season on a high note with a home match against Our Redeemer’s on Sunday at 7 p.m.

Justin Martinez covers Minot High School sports and Class B high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @JTheSportsDude.

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