EAST CHAIN - The Granada-Huntley-East Chain Mustangs jumped out to an early lead against the Martin Luther Knights on Monday.
Despite being outscored in the second half, the Mustangs held on for a 69-54 regular-season basketball victory over the Knights at East Chain School.
Rachel Shumski, who scored a co-game-high 18 points, served as the catalyst behind the Mustangs' early offense.
LOFTY SHOT — Granada-Huntley-East Chain guard Mariah Jensen (11) elevates to fire a jumpshot over Martin Luther’s Hunter Payne (32) during regular-season basketball action Monday night at East Chain School. Granada-Huntley-East Chain’s Rachel Shumski (51) and Brooke McDonald (far right), along with Martin Luther’s Alexis Brummond (22) and Anika Johnson (1), watch the action. (Photo by Leanna Becker)
"I thought that Rachel played an outstanding game for us tonight," said GHEC head coach Rick Uttech. "She played great defense, she was making a lot of her shots and she played hard."
After Allyson Cegelske scored the opening basket off the tip on a layup, Shumski hit a jumper from the block to go ahead 4-0.
Amber Schulz sank a basket from inside the lane before teammate Kayley Shoen, who netted a co-game-high 18 points, swished one of two free throws to cut the Knights' deficit to 4-3.
From there, Shumski and the Mustangs' full-court press created eight of their 12 steals in the opening half and helped them create a 20-point edge by halftime.
"Tonight was a really good team effort. Defensively, we played really well, we hustled for balls and it seemed to be clicking," said Uttech. "Rachel and Brooke (McDonald) scored on the inside, Emily (Zaharia) scored outside and Mariah (Jensen) was attacking. It was just a great game to have to go into the playoffs."
Zaharia provided an outside attack for the Mustangs, making 4 of 11 from behind the arc for 12 of her 14 points.
Zaharia swished her first 3 from the corner to put the Mustangs up 7-3, before switching sides and hitting a 3 from the other corner on the next possession to make it 10-3.
Knights' point guard Alexis Brummond tried to keep the visitors within striking distance, hitting a jumper to cut the lead in half.
Shumski then sank a pair of free throws after being fouled on a shot inside the lane, pocketed a steal and turned it into a layup to provide a quick four-point burst.
McDonald contributed eight points, including a quick shot in the lane to help extend the Mustangs' lead, before Cegelske recorded her second basket of the night to make it 18-5.
The Knights rebounded in the second half and with a balanced scoring attack, managed to outpace the Mustangs 33-28.
"Our goal at halftime that we talked about was coming out like it was a new game and trying to beat them the second half," said Martin Luther head coach Leslie Wokasch. "We were able to do that, and it's a small victory for us tonight."
Schulz netted four of her seven points in the second half, while Brummond and Hanna Geisfeld each finished with eight points in the game.
"Tonight we looked like a team that hadn't had practice in over a week," said Wokasch. "And we haven't, with school closings and games we haven't had one. So it was good to get out and shake off some rust before our playoffs start."
Neither team heated up the nets, with the Knights making just 20 of 56 from the floor and the Mustangs sinking 27 of their 73 shots.
Fortunately for the Mustangs, their early offense and stingy defense was enough to hold the Knights off.
"I thought the fact that we finished the game as strong as we started was good," said Uttech. "There have been games where we play well for the first half and then come out flat, and we didn't do that tonight."
Jensen and Hannah Johanson each finished with 10 points for GHEC, while Shumski and Zaharia each pulled down seven boards.
Brummond and Hunter Payne each grabbed seven rebounds for the Knights, while Payne also tallied six points in the game.
No. 7-seeded Martin Luther (7-12) plays host to the No. 7-seeded Madelia in a Section 2A, South Sub-Section play-in game at 7 p.m. Thursday in Northrop.
No. 3-seeded Granada-Huntley-East Chain (11-10) host No. 6-seeded St. Clair in a sub-section quarterfinal at 7 p.m. Monday in East Chain.
M. LUTHER (54)
Schulz 3-8 1-2 7, Oberdieck 2-4 0-0 4, Johnson 1-5 0-0 2, Brummond 3-8 1-2 8, Shoen 5-13 8-10 18, Payne 3-5 0-0 6, Rusert 0-3 1-4 1, Geistfeld 3-6 2-2 8, Krenz 0-3 0-0 0, Miles 0-1 0-2 0. Totals: 20-56 13-22 54.
Shumski 6-12 6-8 18, McDonald 2-10 1-2 5, Zaharia 5-15 0-0 14, Cegelske 2-6 0-0 4, Pytleski 1-7 0-0 2, Jensen 4-8 1-1 10, Johanson 4-8 2-2 10, Lenort 1-5 0-0 2, Findley 1-2 0-0 2, Hodge 1-1 0-1 2. Totals: 27-73 10-14
3-pointers: GHEC 5-17 (Zaharia 4-11, Cegelske 0-3, Jensen 1-2, Johanson 0-1); M. Luther 1-14 (Oberdieck 0-1, Johnson 0-2, Brummond 1-5, Shoen 0-2, Payne 0-1, Geistfeld 0-1, Krenz 0-1, Miles 0-1). Rebounds: GHEC 34 (Shumski and Zaharia 7 each); ML 35 (Brummond and Payne 7 each). Fouled out: Brummond. Steals: GHEC 12 (Jensen 4); ML 8.