NORTHROP - Amber Schulz's hard work in the lane and Effie Bentz's passing prowess kept Martin Luther within striking distance of Sleepy Eye St. Mary's during Tuesday night's basketball season-opener in Northrop.
The hometown Knights narrowed their gap to 40-37 on the heels of Kayley Shoen's baseline lay-in off one of Bentz's game-leading nine assists with 12 minutes remaining in regulation.
Despite Schulz's double-double performance of a game-best 20 points and a team-high 11 rebounds, the visiting Knights utilized a 50-38 rebounding edge to rebuild their lead during the final 11 minutes.
SETTING A SCREEN — Martin Luther point guard Effie Bentz (right) dribbles toward teammate Catie Sherman’s screen (left) as Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s defender Nikki Carr pursues during nonconference basketball action Tuesday night in Northrop. Photo by Leanna Becker
Forward Jessica Schmitz scored all 12 of her points during the second half to complement a game-best 16 rebounds, while teammate Maddy Helget poured in 17 points to power St. Mary's to a 65-53 non-league victory over Martin Luther.
"We just ran out of gas during the second half," said Martin Luther head coach Leslie Wokasch.
After the two sets of Knights exchanged the lead eight times during the first 15 minutes, Schulz powered home a low-post leaner off a Bentz entry pass to put Martin Luther ahead 21-20 with three minutes left before intermission.
Three-point shooting specialist Devyn Meyer, however, buried back-to-back trifectas to trigger St. Mary's 11-0 offensive surge to close out the first half with a 31-21 lead.
Nikki Carr, who came off the St. Mary's bench to distribute five assists, sank a free throw before converting a backcourt steal into a layup with 1:30 to go before halftime.
Molly Schwartz, who neared double-double territory with 11 points and nine boards, cleaned the offensive glass at the 30-second juncture to cap the visitors' first-half run.
Martin Luther, however, regrouped during the halftime break and erupted for a 13-4 run during the initial stages of the second half to whittle its gap to 37-34.
Schulz's strong interior baskets, Shoen's transitional points, Catie Sherman's 3-point shooting and Bentz's playmaking skills engineered the run, with Bentz's runner in traffic making it a three-point game.
Meyer, however, answered the challenge for St. Mary's by draining her third of four 3s on the night before Schulz and Shoen sliced the gap to 40-37.
Schmitz then utilized every inch of her 5-foot-10 frame to dominate the glass at both ends of the court, delivering six of St. Mary's ensuing 10 points to recreate a double-digit lead with eight minutes remaining.
Bentz's end-to-end drive for a lay-in inched Martin Luther within eight with 6:25 to go, but Schmitz countered by converting a one-and-one situation before hitting a putback basket to secure the visitors' victory.
Shoen tallied nine points off Martin Luther's bench, while Bentz added six points and four steals to her nine assists.
Meyer delivered 12 points off St. Mary's bench, while Helget supplied six rebounds and five steals to complement her 17-point performance.
Martin Luther (0-1) travels to Truman on Thursday night, while Sleepy Eye St. Mary's (2-1) hits the road to Arlington on Friday to face Sibley East.
St. Mary's 31-34-65
M. Luther 21-32-53
M. LUTHER (53)
Amber Schulz 7-12 6-10 20, Catie Sherman 2-8 0-2 6, Kristi Oberdieck 1-1 1-2 3, Hunter Payne 1-11 2-8 4, Effie Bentz 3-12 0-0 6, Kayley Shoen 4-8 1-2 9, Samantha Meade 1-5 0-0 2, Anika Johnson 1-4 1-1 3. Totals 20-61 11-25 53.
ST. MARY'S (65)
Jessica Schmitz 5-12 2-5 12, Molly Schwartz 5-9 1-4 11, Jenna Hose 2-6 0-0 4, Maddy Helget 4-17 7-8 17, Kenzie Schutz 2-8 0-0 4, Devyn Meyer 4-10 0-1 12, Nikki Carr 2-5 1-2 5, Larissa Helget 0-2 0-0 0, Mariah Salfer 0-2 0-0 0, Andrea Schwartz 0-0 0-2 0. Totals 24-71 11-22 65.
3-pointers: Sleepy Eye St. Mary's 6-14 (Meyer 4-8, Helget 2-6); Martin Luther 2-9 (Sherman 2-5, Bentz 0-3, Payne 0-1). Fouled out: None. Rebounds: St. Mary's 50 (Schmitz 16, M. Schwartz 9); M. Luther 38 (Schulz 11, Payne 8). Assists: M. Luther 14 (Bentz 9); St. Mary's 14 (Carr 5). Steals: St. Mary's 14 (Helget 5); M. Luther 11 (Bentz 4).