EAST CHAIN - "Physical," was the only word that Granada-Huntley-East Chain mentor Rick Uttech used to describe his Mustangs' basketball game against Nicollet on Friday night at East Chain School.
Towering frontline players 6-foot Rachel Shumski, 6-1 Kenlie Pytleski and 5-11 Brooke McDonald each produced double-double performances to power the Mustangs to a 58-42 Valley Conference victory over the visiting Raiders.
"Hold your ground and stay strong inside," Uttech told his GHEC hoopsters during a timeout midway through the opening 18-minute half, with the home team clinging to a 14-6 edge on the heels of Shumski's putback basket.
LONG BOARD — Granada-Huntley-East Chain’s Rachel Shumski (51) contends with Nicollet’s Mindy Poehler for control of a long rebound during Valley Conference basketball action Friday night at East Chain School. (Photo courtesy of Sue Petrowiak)
Despite a bit of second-half foul trouble, Shumski still approached rare triple-double territory by generating game-best totals of 16 points, 14 rebounds and seven steals to complement four assists and three blocked shots.
After Nicole Lenort spotted Pytleski for two of her 12 points from the low blocks, Nicollet made three consecutive 3-pointers to whittle GHEC's lead to one. Emily Skrien, Alyssa Wagner and Cassie Juberien each dialed long distance to inch the Raiders within 16-15 with 5:15 remaining before halftime.
Pytleski and Nicollet freshman post player Natasha Young Kruse exchanged baskets in the paint before Shumski's constant pressure at the top of the Mustangs' zone defense spurred a late five-point surge just before intermission.
Shumski intercepted an errant pass to the free throw line and shoveled the basketball to Hannah Johanson. Johanson, in turn, spotted Emily Zaharia for a breakaway layup and two of her 11 points on the night at the 1-minute mark.
Shumski later pick-pocketed the Raiders near midcourt, drove the distance for the lay-in and converted the traditional 3-point play to extend the Mustangs' margin to 23-17 with 26 seconds to go before halftime.
Wagner, who tossed in a co-game-high 16 points, drained a 3-pointer during the second half's early stages to narrow Nicollet's gap to 27-22 before Pytleski's putback basket triggered the Mustangs' pivotal 12-1 surge.
McDonald, who matched Pytleski by collecting 12 points and 10 boards, and Zaharia each converted back-to-back assists from Shumski into baseline leaners to widen GHEC's lead to double figures at 33-22 at the 12:30 mark.
Skrien, who tallied 10 points, hit a solo free throw for Nicollet before Shumski and Allyson Cegelske combined to generate six more unanswered points for a 16-point lead with 9 minutes remaining.
Wagner, who connected on five of the Raiders' eight 3s on the night, drilled a pair of treys down the stretch, but it was not enough to overtake the Mustangs.
Young Kruse produced eight points and eight boards for the Raiders, who made more shots from 3-point range (8) than inside the bonus arc (6).
Granada-Huntley-East Chain (4-5, 4-3 Valley) plays host to Blue Earth Area on Monday night at East Chain School.
Nicollet (1-7, 1-5) plays host to Minnesota Valley Lutheran on Tuesday night.
St. James 59, Blue Earth Area 50 - Sophomore Allison Brandts scored a game-high 24 points to pace the Saints to a 59-50 South Central Conference victory on Friday night in St. James.
Julia Beckius added 15 points for St. James, which made 21 of 46 from the floor and swished 12 of 25 free throws.
Jenna Stevermer tallied 16 points to top the Bucs' efforts, while Karli Olsen netted 12 points and grabbed seven rebounds.
The Bucs made 19 of 72 shots from the floor, while draining 8 of 15 charity tosses.
Blue Earth Area (4-6, 1-4 SCC) travels to play Granada-Huntley-East Chain in a nonconference game at 7:30 p.m. Monday night in East Chain.
St. James (3-7, 1-4 SCC) travels to play a 7:30 p.m. game in Sleepy Eye on Monday.
Granada-Huntley-East Chain 62, Alden-Conger 44 - The Mustangs had three players score in double digits and held the Knights to just 20 second-half points to claim a 62-44 Valley Conference win on Friday night in Alden.
Ryan Shumski poured in 16 points and snagged six boards for GHEC, while Jared Green scored 12 points, grabbed six rebounds and distributed three assists.
Josh Johanson also reached double digits with 11 points for the Mustangs, who made 21 of 41 shots inside the arc.
Logan Pytleski neared the double-digit mark with nine points to help a Mustang offense that made 3 of 12 from 3-point land and 11 of 19 from the charity stripe.
Josh Wolter contributed seven points and made three steals in the win.
Eli Hallman topped the Knights' offense with 12 points, while Matt Erickson tallied six points in the game.
Granada-Huntley-East Chain (3-8, 3-3 Valley) travels to play a conference game at 7:30 p.m. in Nicollet on Tuesday.
Alden-Conger (1-11, 0-6 Valley) travels to play a conference game against Truman/Martin Luther at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in Truman.
Nicollet 60, Truman/Martin Luther 57 - The Raiders outlasted the BluejayKnights 60-57 in Valley Conference action on Friday night in Truman.
Matt Christenson scored a double-double performance of 17 points and 11 rebounds to pace the Raiders.
Desmond Wills added 18 points and five boards in the win for the Raiders, who made 20 of 44 shots from the floor and 18 of 34 from the free throw line.
Sam Geistfeld topped the BluejayKnights with a game-best double-double of 22 points and 20 rebounds to complement five steals.
Alex Weihe netted a double-double of 13 points and 14 rebounds, while Colton Greiner contributed 13 points and made three steals for TML.
The BluejayKnights made 22 of 52 shots from the field and swished 7 of 10 free throw attempts.
Truman/Martin Luther (3-9, 1-4 Valley) plays host to Alden-Conger on Tuesday night, while Nicollet (5-4, 1-2 Valley) plays host to Granada-Huntley-East Chain.