HAWLEY, Minn. — Kaylie Crabtree wasn’t ready for her team’s season to end in Friday’s Class 2A, Section 8 girls basketball quarterfinals. As soon as she stepped onto the court for Hawley in front of her hometown crowd, she made sure it didn’t.
Crabtree exploded for 29 points to lift Hawley to a dominant 61-43 win over Breckenridge. The Nuggets (13-7) roll into Tuesday’s 7 p.m. section semifinal, where they’ll face South No. 1 seed Fergus Falls (17-3) in Fergus.
“That’s the type of kid that steps up when the going gets tough,” Hawley head coach Bill Gottenborg said. “It was huge. She did an outstanding job leading the team tonight, and it was a lot of fun.”
Crabtree, a 5-foot-8 junior guard, knocked down 12 of her 13 free throws Friday. She was responsible for almost half of her team’s total offensive production, but wasn’t concerned with her individual performance.
“I’m just glad we got the win, it’s all that matters,” Crabtree said. “We came to practice every single day and worked our butts off, and we knew this was going to be a battle. We all played together tonight. It was a great team win.”
The North No. 2 seed Hawley and South No. 6 seed Breckenridge, which finished its season at 12-7, split the regular-season meetings. The Cowboys picked up the most recent win last month.
“Breck’s a great team. Our kids showed up tonight, played with a lot of heart and played with a lot of poise and got the job done,” Gottenborg said.
The home-court advantage also gave Hawley a boost. Gottenborg said it’s tough to play in Breckenridge, in front of the team’s consistently loud crowd.
“We had to come out and establish the home-court advantage here and put a little pressure on them,” Gottenborg, Hawley’s longtime coach said.
The Nuggets had a game plan, as well as a mission, and went out and executed. They jumped out to an 11-1 lead with buckets from three players. Crabtree added five points, while Anna Steer had back-to-back layups to fuel the fast start. Steer went 4-for-6 from the free-throw line and scored 12 points Friday.
Breckenridge went over seven minutes without a field goal. The closest it would come to Hawley’s margin was within six points (13-7) early in the frame.
“I feel like we had a bunch of energy. Especially on the bench — our bench kept our team alive,” Crabtree said. “Even our student section had a bunch of energy. I felt like we played together and just really connected tonight.”
The Nuggets had an energized attack on both sides of the ball. They limited Breckenridge’s second-chance opportunities and moved the ball well on offense.
While the Cowgirls missed shots, the Nuggets kept mounting a comfortable lead. Crabtree made life hard for Breckenridge, and helped facilitate the first-half onslaught with 13 points.
“The kids kept attacking because Breck came out and was all over us,” Gottenborg said.
Breckenridge hit 44% (7-for-16) from the charity stripe. Cowgirls senior guard Jude Held, who led Breckenridge in scoring with 21 points, found ways to score against an up-tempo Hawley defense. She chipped away at Hawley’s first-half lead with 10 points, but the Nuggets finished the frame with a commanding 31-17 halftime lead.
“They’re a good team. They can get off on good runs,” Crabtree said. “Getting that first jump helped us build that lead right away.”
By the time the second half rolled around, the Cowgirls had crawled themselves out of any shooting slump. They opened the second frame with a 9-4 run (35-26).
Breckenridge stayed within nine until halfway through. The Cowgirls had maintained the margin for nine minutes, but wouldn’t get any closer.
The teams traded baskets until Hawley flipped the script. The Cowgirls went almost seven minutes without a bucket.
The Nuggets pushed their lead to 55-34 on a 12-0 run. They took advantage of the free-throw line down the stretch, closing out the game with six charity baskets.
Kylie Crabtree helped pace Hawley with 14 points.
The Breckenridge cheering section shook the stands. The Cowgirls didn’t quit on the court, and neither did their cheering section.
Held scored five points in the final two minutes for Breckenridge, but the margin was too high for the last-minute attempts to overcome.
Half: Hawley 31, Breckenridge 17
H: Kaylie Crabtree 29, Kylie Crabtree 14, A. Steer 12, Rux 2, Ames 2, I. Steer 2.
B: Held 21, Materi 8, Koehler 8, Conzemius 4, Bernotas 2.