MOORHEAD — Career nights from two high school teammates and a stellar finish proved to be an elixir for success Friday night for Minnesota State Moorhead.
Dragons sophomore Peyton Boom scored a career-high 22 points, including a key basket late, to help her team earn a 66-63 victory against Minnesota State-Mankato in Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference women's basketball at Alex Nemzek Fieldhouse before 1,099 fans.
"As a team, we stuck together," said Boom, from Barnesville, Minn.
Dragons sophomore Nicole Herbranson, who also played high school basketball at Barnesville, scored a career-high 14 points off the bench to help hold off a relentless Mavericks team that shook off a slow start.
"We played with grit at the end, which is what we've been preaching all year to work on," said Herbranson, who sank four 3-pointers.
The Dragons (15-7, 10-5 NSIC) have won two of their past three games. Moorhead led for more than 36 minutes, but the Mavericks soared into the lead in the closing minutes. Mankato took a 63-59 lead after senior forward Taylor Drost scored on a drive to the basket with 1 minute, 53 seconds to play in the fourth quarter.
"All we can ask is we give ourselves a chance, and we fight and claw and stay in the game," Mankato head coach Emilee Thiesse said. "I can't say enough about our team's effort for 35 minutes of the game."
The Dragons countered with the game's final seven points to spoil the Mankato rally. Boom scored the first four points in that run, including a baseline drive and basket that tied the score at 63-63 with 1:07 to play. Junior guard Sarah Jacobson gave the Dragons the lead for good with a driving layup that gave Moorhead a 65-63 lead with 33 seconds remaining. Jacobson added a free throw with 11 seconds to play for the final margin.
Moorhead threatened to run away with the game early.
The Dragons bolted to a double-digit lead, scoring 18 of the game's first 20 points. Boom fueled that early success, scoring 11 points during that opening surge. She capped the rally with a transition layup that gave Moorhead an 18-2 lead with 5:41 to play in the first quarter.
Boom was 5-for-5 from the field, including a 3-pointer, in the game's first four-plus minutes.
"Credit to them. We had our defensive light switch off," Thiesse said. "It shouldn't be a light switch for us and we didn't have it on. We were soft. We didn't have the full-court pressure that we needed."
Mankato flipped the switch back on after the midway point of the opening quarter.
The Mavericks countered with the next 14 points to claw back into the game. Mankato stymied the Dragons with trapping full-court defense. Mankato center Kristi Fett capped the rally with a basket in the paint that cut the Moorhead lead to 18-16 with 8:38 to play in the second quarter.
"Once they settled into their game, they picked up their pressure on us on defense and things kind of evened out," Herbranson said of the Mavericks. "I think they did get us sped up a little bit, but we handled it when we needed to."
The Dragons drained four 3-pointers in the second quarter to slow down the Mankato comeback. Herbranson sank three 3-pointers in the second quarter to help Moorhead take a 32-27 lead into halftime. The Dragons shot 55% (6 of 11 ) from the 3-point line in the opening 20 minutes.
Brooke Tonsfeldt, from Moorhead, scored eight points off the bench for Mankato and also grabbed four rebounds. The 5-foot-10 junior helped get the Mavericks back into the game after their sluggish start. The Dragons finished with 27 turnovers and Mankato scored 28 points off those miscues.
"That says a lot about our basketball team that we have that much depth," Thiesse said of her team's bench play. "Brooke Tonsfeldt was a huge part of that, getting some huge deflections. That entire group really got some great mojo going."
Mankato 14 27 42 63
Moorhead 18 32 50 66
Mankato (11-8, 8-7 NSIC): Stuttley 3-8 0-0 7, Drost 4-9 1-1 10, Fett 2-7 2-2 6, Klitzke 3-11 2-2 9, Olson 0-6 0-0 0, Batt 3-6 5-6 12, Fuller 2-10 1-2 6, Tonsfeldt 3-8 2-4 8, Nachazel 0-0 0-0 0, Shumski 0-1 0-0 0, Menster 1-4 1-2 3, Polson 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 22-71 14-19 63.
Moorhead (15-7, 10-5): Boom 10-14 2-2 23, Hintz 4-9 4-4 12, Steichen 0-3 0-0 0, Jacobson 3-6 3-7 10, Liegel 1-6 0-0 3, Fech 0-1 0-0 0, Green 0-1 4-8 4, McKeever 0-2 0-0 0, Brown 0-0 0-0 0, Herbranson 4-8 2-4 14. Totals 22-50 15-25 66.
3-point goals: Mankato 5-23 (Stuttley 1-4, Drost 1-3, Klitzke 1-5, Olson 0-2, Batt 1-1, Fuller 1-5, Tonsfeldt 0-2, Menster 0-1), Moorhead 7-13 (Boom 1-1, Steichen 0-1, Jacobson 1-2, Liegel 1-4, Herbranson 4-5). Total fouls: Mankato 28, Moorhead 20. Rebounds: Mankato 31 (Klitzke 5), Moorhead 53 (Hintz 15). Assists: Mankato 10 (Stuttley 2, Batt 2), Moorhead 13 (Hintz 5). Turnovers: Mankato 11, Moorhead 27.