Megan Aasness posted a double-double and single-handedly broke the Parkers Prairie press on a number of occasions as her Comet team ran out of gas in a 75-65 loss Thursday night.
The Comets jumped to an early lead in their home opener. Under the direction of first year coach Kendra Grothmann, the Lady Comets faced a perennial powerhouse in the Panthers. Grothmann's team sat in on defense early, forcing a number of poor shots that led to 34 total rebounds by the Comets. Quick outlet passes opened scoring opportunities for Hillcrest, who led for much of the first half in what grew to be a see-saw battle with the Panthers.
Parkers Prairie looked down the Comet bench and instituted a full-court press from the opening tip. With 8 players in varsity uniforms, the Comets were in for a long night. However, Hillcrest took to the game in a simple, methodical fashion. Grothmann cheered for her girls throughout the night as the Comets worked to control the ball and lengthen offensive series after previous two losses. Grothmann noted that defensive stops by her Comets were long and drawn-out in previous games. She compared that with offensive series, which were quick and poorly executed. Thursday night the Comets were a different team.
The Panthers transitioned from a full-court press to a 2-3 zone. Working to trap the Lady Comets in the corners, the Panthers were frustrated by a Comet backcourt that expertly navigated the press. On the offensive side, Hillcrest passed the ball a handful of times in looking for an open shot on nearly every offensive series. They played four girls on the perimeter against the Panther zone, with Abigail Christenson working for an open shot in the post by cutting to the foul line as the ball reversed sides. Christenson's threat in the paint called for extra defenders to double-down. This opening allowed the Comet guards open shots behind the arc. Ruthanne Erickson was a key benefactor of the Comets' game plan. She hit 5 three pointers in the night, contributing to her game high 21 points.
With Ruthanne's shooting the Comet posts and guards worked to keep plays alive as the Panther's adjusted to hot-handed shooting. On the defensive side the Comets looked to convert quickly from receiver to aggressor. Megan Aasness crashed the boards throughout the night, pulling down 9 boards on defense in an effort to turn the tables on the Panthers. Christenson and Emma Royce boxed out for Aasness, pulling down a combined 10 rebounds that were outleted quickly to to guards as the Comets kept pressure on the Panthers.
As the Panthers pulled line-change substitutions, the Comets trickled one to two players every 3 minutes. With the game wearing on the Lady Comets continued to out hustle the Panthers. Hot shooting behind the arc kept Hillcrest in the game, shooting 40% (6/15) in 3 pointers.
In the final two minutes Hillcrest saw the game slip away. With 3 players on the bench with 5 fouls, Hillcrest's coaches pulled back their remaining five players on the court for fear that they would finish the game with only four eligible to play. In the waning minutes Hillcrest didn't have the fouls to give to force the Panthers to win the game with free-throws.
The game proved a good test of the Lady Comets, who displayed incredible mettle and showed themselves to be in midseason form with conditioning. The Comets look forward to a difficult match-up in Underwood on Friday.