MOORHEAD -- Cassidy Thorson was a popular postgame photo opportunity Friday night at the north end of Alex Nemzek Fieldhouse.
The Minnesota State Moorhead senior posed for multiple photos with family and friends, holding a sign that commemorated her scoring 1,000 career points earlier in the evening. The career accomplishment was nice, but Thorson was happier the Dragons earned a 70-54 victory against St. Cloud State to clinch at least a share of the overall Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference women’s basketball championship before 987 fans.
“That’s awesome,” said Thorson, who finished with 11 points and four rebounds. “If I didn’t get (1,000 points) tonight, it was fine. Ultimately, I wanted to come out with the win.”
MSUM (22-3, 19-2 NSIC) has won 16 games in a row to tie the program’s longest winning streak, equalling a streak from the 1991-92 season. The Dragons have a one game lead over Augustana (22-3, 18-3) and Northern State (23-4, 18-3) in the overall league standings with one game to play in the regular season. Winona State’s 71-67 home victory against Augustana on Friday night helped the Dragons clinch at least a share of the NSIC regular-season crown. MSUM can win the overall league and North Division titles outright with a win Saturday against Minnesota-Duluth.
“It’s a big deal. We put in a lot of work and it’s not been easy,” Dragons head coach Karla Nelson said. “I was really worried tonight, just from the emotional standpoint. Everybody’s been talking about the win streak and all that stuff. I know they hear this stuff, we don’t talk about it, but I’m sure it’s been weighing on them.”
Thorson had 996 career points entering Friday’s game. She sank a 3-pointer with 5 minutes, 23 seconds to play in the first quarter to give her exactly 1,000 career points. She finished the game with 1,007 for her career.
“She’s put a lot of time into the game, and the game means a lot to her,” Nelson said.
Thorson said her two grandmas, a sizeable group of family and friends and MSUM fans congratulated her after the game. The team also signed autographs after the game for the youth teams that were in attendance.
“It’s a really special feeling knowing that everyone is rooting for me and the whole team,” Thorson said.
The Dragons scored 13 consecutive points during one stretch in the first quarter to help build a 21-8 lead through 10 minutes. Dragons sophomore Megan Hintz scored eight points in the opening quarter, including a layup that capped the 13-0 run, staking the Dragons to a 14-4 lead with 1:27 to play in the first quarter.
“We came out really strong in the first quarter,” Thorson said. “We just need to keep building on that and not let off the gas pedal.”
MSUM carried a 37-27 lead into halftime. Hintz led the way with 10 points on 4-for-5 shooting from the field in the opening two quarters. Senior forward Drew Sannes added eight points and eight rebounds through 20 minutes.
Hintz finished with a game-high 18 points. Sannes ended with 12 points and 14 rebounds.
The Dragons played from the lead for the game’s final 36-plus minutes. They host Minnesota-Duluth at 4 p.m. Saturday to close out the regular season. Thorson, Sannes and Shannon Galegher are playing in the final regular-season game of their careers.
“To see her and Drew and Shannon really finishing things up like this means a lot to me, to see them accomplish these things,” Nelson said.