Tri-County News

Lady Cubs are Central Minnesota Conference Champions

By Pat Garry, Staff Writer

With the regular season’s end on the horizon, the Kimball girls basketball team battled Royalton and lost, 62-55 Thursday, Feb. 24.

On Friday, Kimball took on Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa, with a conference title at stake, and the Cubs won, 64-55.

Royalton game

This was a rare back-to-back CMC matchup, due to rescheduling postponed games, that saw Royalton travel to Kimball on Thursday. The game began with converted free-throws by sophomore Ava Molitor and junior Kristen Hilbert, a field goal by junior Ellie Kuechle, and a three-pointer by senior Madelyn Hunt; which gave Kimball a 7-5 early lead.

The Royals took the lead at 23-12 and eventually led at half-time, 27-19. Kimball played well enough to give themselves chances but still trailed, 42-33, with 10 minutes to play. Hunt ignited the offense with her (fourth) three-pointer, while Hilbert took over in the post. When Ellie Kuechle connected on a three-pointer, the Cubs had things all tied at 44-44, with six minutes remaining. Royalton answered with consecutive treys, giving them a 6-point lead. Kuechle’s field goal with four minutes left, cut the Royals lead to 50-46, and a minute later, Hilbert scored to keep it close at 53-48. A fourth straight Royals’ three-pointer down the stretch disgruntled the Cubs, but junior Olivia Mortenson converted a two-pointer and a three-pointer with one minute to play, pushing the Cubs’ deficit to just 58-53. Hilbert’s final bucket with 37 seconds left kept it a two-possession game at 60-55, but the Royals knocked down their final free-throws and gained the hard-fought victory (Notes: It was senior night for Kimball, as the Cubs honored senior Madelyn Hunt, senior Manager Ellie Schindele, and senior foreign exchange student Carlotta Weiss Pascual). Kimball shot 31.7% on two-point field goals (13/41) while making 34.8% on three-pointers (8/23).

Kimball stats: Madelyn Hunt, 12 points, 3 assists, 2 steals; Olivia Mortenson, 7 points, 2 assists; Allie Leither, 2 rebounds; Ellie Kuechle, 13 points, 7 assists, 9 steals; Ava Molitor, 3 points, 11 rebounds; Kristen Hilbert, 20 points, 11 rebounds.

“I thought we played well for the most part, and it was a very exciting game. But we just seemed to have a hard time finishing our offensive possessions a few too many times,” said Coach Jeremy Kuechle.

BBE game

Kimball traveled to Belgrade to take on the BBE Jaguars in the final conference game of the season, with the winner claiming stake to a conference title. The Jaguars jumped out 5-0, but Kimball tied things at 7-7, following junior Olivia Mortenson’s three-pointer. BBE took back the lead at 11-7, but Mortenson connected on another three-pointer, to give Kimball its first lead at 12-11. Hilbert’s post-play shined in the next stretch, as she scored the Cubs’ next 10 points and pushed Kimball’s lead to 24-20, with two minutes to play in the first half. Junior Ellie Kuechle connected on (two) three-pointers in the final two minutes, to give Kimball a 30-24 lead going into the locker room for the halftime break.

Sophomore Ava Molitor scored first for Kimball in the second half, followed by an E. Kuechle layup and three made free-throws. Hilbert scored next to give Kimball a 39-26 lead, but BBE made a nine-point run to cut it to 39-35, before Molitor scored again to make it 41-35 Cubs, with 13 minutes to play. The Jaguars tied the game at 43-43, but Ellie Kuechle hit a transition three-pointer, assisted by senior Madelyn Hunt, to put Kimball up 46-43 with 9:18 remaining. That ­lead-changing basket became epic, as it was Kuechle’s 1,000th point of her career. After a short pause in the game and after a Jaguar three tied it again, sophomore Allie Leither grabbed a board, was fouled and made one of two free-throws to give Kimball the lead back at 47-46. With 4:30 to play, BBE took a 53-52 lead, and with the game and conference title hanging in the balance, the Cubs answered the call. Madelyn Hunt facilitated the offense, under heavy duress all game, and kept Kimball calm and collected while the Cubs scored 12-straight points. Kuechle and Molitor each made layups in the next two minutes, and with 1:34 left, Mortenson hit a clutch three-pointer to put Kimball up 59-53; and drive a dagger into the Jaguars’ chances. Hunt, Mortenson, and Hilbert, collectively made 5 of 6 free-throws in the final 1:15 … to ice the game and give Kimball a 64-55 victory, guaranteeing a share of the CMC Conference Championship … and the celebration ensued.

Kimball stats: Madelyn Hunt, 1 point, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, 5 steals; Olivia Mortenson, 13 points, 7 rebounds; Allie Leither, 1 point, 2 rebounds; Ellie Kuechle, 23 points, 9 steals, 4 assists; Ava Molitor, 5 points, 7 rebounds; Kristen Hilbert, 21 points, 11 rebounds, 2 blocks; (Kimball’s record moves to 18-7 overall (11-3 CMC) – Cubs’ first playoff game is Thursday, March 3, vs. St. Cloud Cathedral).

“This group has come a long way in the last two years, and I am so incredibly proud of them all. It’s such a journey through all the ups and downs … but I think my favorite part of tonight was just watching them jump up and down in celebration in the locker room afterward,” said an exhilarated Coach Jeremy Kuechle.

Photo by Images by Marguerite.

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