Royals outlast Knights in thriller
Battling to further establish their respective places in the pecking order of the hyper-competitive Region 6, two of the remaining three undefeated teams in District 12 engaged in hardwood battle on Monday night as South Prairie-Max traveled to Our Redeemer’s in a showdown between two of Class B’s hottest programs as of late.
Chock full of teams putting together fantastic seasons on the court, the Region 6 calendar once again pitted two basketball powerhouses in victorious grooves against one another in a District 12 clash that saw a South Prairie-Max Royals (10-2 overall, 5-1 Region 6) squad riding an eight-game winning streak down an Our Redeemer’s Knights (12-3 overall, 5-0 Region 6) group on their own five-game stretch of wins in a 28-26 nail-biter.
Coming out of the gates at breakneck speed, the first quarter of competition witnessed both the Knights and Royals utilizing a mix of up-tempo strategy and multi-pass half-court sets to drive their high-octane offenses, as junior guard Maya Vibeto and senior center Aubrey Griedl of Our Redeemer’s and South Prairie’s sophomore guard Amy Mikkelson and freshman guard Skotti Beck served as catalysts to keep the contest close at 8-6 in favor of the Royals.
Still continuing to alternate between periods of calculated, half-court play and blistering transition opportunities, South Prairie eighth grade guard Rylee Routledge netted the first bucket of a second quarter dominated by tough, physical defense that put points at a premium and limited prime scoring chances for both offenses as the home team Knights regained a 12-11 lead with less than two minutes left until the halfway mark.
Still standing toe-to-toe in the final minute of the low-scoring affair, failed opportunities from both inside and outside the arc for each team as time expired ultimately led to a 14-14 deadlock heading into halftime of a showdown unsurprisingly living up to the hype that proceeded the heavyweight affair.
Picking up where things left off after the first half, Our Redeemer’s and South Prairie remained on the hunt for high-percentage shots and an increase in offensive efficiency, yet both remained scarce thanks to dogged defense by both teams.
After a three-minute scoring drought to start the third quarter, both teams orchestrated a spurt of scoring that saw the scoreboard inch upwards to 21-18 in favor of the Knights, highlighted by a beautiful baseline jumper from the left side of the court by senior forward Elise Altringer that set the stage for a dramatic final quarter of action.
With just one possession separating the teams with eight minutes left in regulation, the Royals’ Beck nailed the biggest basket to that point of play, burying a deep three with 6:48 on the clock to knot the game at 21-21.
After baskets by Our Redeemer’s Griedl and South Prairie’s Beck extended the matchup’s stalemate, a crucial three pointer from the top of the key by Routledge and a perimeter bucket by sophomore Azjiah Trader pushed the Royals’ edge to 28-23 with just a minute left on the clock.
However, the Knights put their composure on display when needed most, drawing up a play for floor general Maya Vibeto that she turned into a three-point basket to dwindle the South Prairie lead to 28-26 and setting up the Knights for an opportunity to tie or steal a win in the final moments.
Given just enough time for a miracle, deep-shooting threat Vibeto would square up just outside the three-point line, letting fly a well-contested shot falling just short of the mark, securing South Prairie’s ninth-straight win by a final score of 28-26.
For the Royals, Rylee Routledge and Scotti Beck led the way with 8 points apiece, along with scoring by Amy Mikkelson (6), MaKya Gerding (4), and Azjiah Trader (2).
Kadyn Braun and Maya Vibeto paced the Knights with 7 points each in the loss, while Aubrey Griedl and Elise Altringer each notched 6 points.
When asked about their current nine-game win streak, South Prairie head coaches Keturah Schwarzrock and Tanner Masser commented, “Thanks to tough defensive efforts and a number of strong second-half performances during this stretch, our girls have continued to build their confidence, and in turn their momentum.”
Summarizing the significance of the win, both Schwarzrock and Masser explained, “This is the first time in school history that a South Prairie-Max team has earned a victory in any sport over Our Redeemer’s.”
Resuming Region 6 action on Thursday as district tournament play quickly approaches, Our Redeemer’s travels to Des Lacs-Burlington for a matchup at 7 p.m., while South Prairie-Max stays on the road for a contest against Mohall-Lansford-Sherwood slated for a 7:15 p.m. tip-off.