SHERBURN - Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton guard Kennedy Strauss and the Bulldogs unleashed a smothering full-court press from the opening tip on Tuesday night.
Strauss and her basketball-hawking teammates pocketed four backcourt thefts to literally steal their way to an early 17-8 lead over the Martin County West Mavericks during the Valley Conference clash's initial four minutes.
The Mavericks countered by controlling the boards and finding fastbreaking teammates with their outlet passes to prevent the hustling Bulldogs from nipping at their heels in Sherburn.
GETTING VERTICAL — Martin County West forward Kate Thiesse (31) elevates to fire a jumpshot over Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton’s Lauren Summers (44) and Hannah Olson (20) during Valley Conference action Tuesday night in Sherburn. The Mavericks’ Jordan Gregory (23) and Taryn Tumbleson (11), along with the Bulldogs’ Taryn Clayton (2) and Gabbie Hagen (left), watch the action. (Photo by Leanna Becker)
The frontcourt tandem of Kate Thiesse and Reilly Geistfeld delivered a pair of double-double performances, while Taryn Tumbleson and Madyson Larson each scored in double digits to trigger MCW's ensuing 60-45 comeback triumph over JWP.
"They (the Bulldogs) really came out aggressively against us from the very first possession and put us back on our heels right away," said Maverick mentor Rodger Taylor.
Down 19-11, Thiesse distributed one of her four assists to a cutting Tumbleson for a baseline leaner off an inbound play to trigger MCW's 10-0 surge that staked the home team to its first lead with 10 minutes left in the first half.
Thiesse, who also produced 17 points, 10 rebounds and five steals, spotted Larson for a low-post basket before the T-n-T combination traded roles during the ensuing trip downcourt.
Tumbleson, who finished with 14 points, doled out one of her four assists to a breaking Thiesse for a layup against JWP's full-court pressure.
Jordan Gregory then spotted Larson for two of her 11 points to knot the game at 19 before Thiesse garnered another steal and fed Tumbleson for the breakaway basket and 21-19 lead.
Gabbie Hagen hit a baseline follow to tie the game one last time for the Bulldogs at 21 before Tumbleson swished a 10-footer off a Geistfeld assist. Tumbleson then drained a 3-pointer off Gregory's assist with 7 minutes in the opening half.
Hannah Olson tossed in back-to-back runners in traffic to narrow JWP's deficit to 26-25, but Geistfeld countered with two baskets in a row. Geistfeld, who generated 14 points to go with a game-best 15 rebounds, converted McKenna Taylor's entry pass into two points before hitting a low-post turnaround off a Tumbleson assist.
Larson's traditional 3-point play off a putback basket gave the Mavericks a 33-27 lead with 11 seconds remaining before halftime.
"I guess it's not how you start a game, it's how you finish. Obviously, we'd rather start strong and end strong," Rodger Taylor said with a laugh. "We did do a good job on the boards in both halves though."
Geistfeld and Thiesse dominated the glass at both ends of the court, combining to pull down 17 of the Mavericks' 25 second-half rebounds en route to a 46-29 edge in that statistical category on the night.
Strauss, who scored a game-high 18 points to complement seven rebounds and five steals, hit a pair of baskets down the stretch to close the Bulldogs within 49-41 with 8 minutes remaining. Thiesse, Larson and Tumbleson, however, combined for a game-ending 11-4 run to put the conference contest out of reach.
Hannah Olson and Haley Anderson scored 10 points each for the Bulldogs.
Martin County West (6-0, 3-0 Valley) plays host to Fairmont on Friday night in Sherburn.
Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton (3-2, 2-1) plays host to United South Central on Thursday night in Janesville.
Granada-Huntley-East Chain 67, Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial 39 - Emily Zaharia scored a game-high 18 points to top the Mustangs' balanced point production en route to a 28-point Valley Conference victory over the Knights on Tuesday night in Lake Crystal.
Zaharia connected on five 3-pointers to complement three steals, while teammate Rachel Shumski delivered a double-double performance of 14 points and a game-best 11 rebounds to go with four steals.
Kenlie Pytleski scored 13 points for GHEC, Brooke McDonald contributed 10 points and seven boards to the victory, while Allyson Cegelske supplied five assists and three steals.
Mariah Jensen pocketed three steals for the Mustangs, who made 19 of 39 shots from 2-point range. GHEC also hit 7 of 18 attempts from behind the 3-point arc and 8 of 15 free throws on the game.
Granada-Huntley-East Chain (3-2, 3-0 Valley) plays host to Springfield on Friday night at East Chain School.
Martin Luther 73, Nicollet 56 - Kayley Shoen erupted for a game-best 25 points to power the Knights to a 17-point Valley Conference victory over the Raiders on Tuesday night in Northrop.
Kristi Oberdieck neared double-double territory by scoring 13 points and grabbing a game-best nine rebounds for Martin Luther, while teammates Hunter Payne and Alexis Brummond each produced 11 points. Payne also distributed six assists, while Brummond pocketed six steals.
The Knights connected on 23 of 53 shots from 2-point range, 5 of 15 behind the bonus arc and 12 of 27 at the free throw line.
Emily Skrien scored 19 points to top Nicollet, while teammate Natasha Young Kruse chipped in 11 points.
Martin Luther (1-4, 1-2 Valley) faces Blue Earth Area in the opening round of the Windom Holiday Classic on Friday, Dec. 27.
North Union 36, Clay Central-Everly 29 - Sarah Rolling delivered a game-leading 13 rebounds to go with four boards to engineer the Warriors' seven-point Corn Belt Conference triumph over the Mavericks on Tuesday night in Armstrong.
Madison Irmiter collected five points, four steals and three assists for North Union, teammate Aurora Oliver chipped in five rebounds and six steals, while Alexis Valvick added five points.
The Warriors made 9 of 20 shots from 2-point range and 15 of 25 at the free throw line.
North Union travels to Harris-Lake Park on Friday night.
Truman/Martin Luther 65, Cleveland 46 - Sam Geistfeld and Alex Weihe packed a potent 1-2 punch to steer the BluejayKnights to a 19-point Valley Conference victory over the Clippers on Tuesday night in Cleveland.
Geistfeld chalked up a game-best 20 points to complement 12 rebounds, six steals and four blocked shots. Weihe scored 15 points, matched Geistfeld by hauling down 12 rebounds, and distributed four assists, made four steals and blocked three shots.
Colton Greiner delivered 15 points for TML, which hit 26 of 66 field goals and 5 of 9 free throws on the game.
Jordan Phillips scored 14 points and pulled down eight rebounds to top Cleveland, while teammate Spencer Lynch added nine points and six boards.
Truman/Martin Luther (3-3, 1-1 Valley) plays host to Martin County West on Thursday night in Truman.
North Union 82, Clay Central-Everly 36 - Aric Runge and Jacob Braddock combined for 34 points to power the Warriors to an 82-36 Corn Belt Conference rout over the Mavericks on Tuesday night in Armstrong.
Runge scored a game-high 20 points to go with four rebounds and three steals, while Braddock netted 14 points, four assists and three boards.
Kaleb Olson, Colin Runksmeier and Trent Pedersen each contributed eight points to North Union's winning ways.
The Warriors hit 32 of 54 shots from 2-point territory, 2 of 5 from behind the 3-point line and 12 of 21 at the free throw line.
North Union (1-6, 1-1 Corn Belt) travels to Harris-Lake Park on Friday night.