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Class AAA No. 6 Tigers scratch Cardinals in BSC Showcase

LOOKING FOR AN ANGLE — Fairmont’s Ava Terfehr (with basketball) looks for an angle around Marshall defender Reese Drake (far right) during their Big South Conference Showcase showdown on Saturday night in Blue Earth. Fairmont’s Hope Klanderud (middle), along with Marshall’s Paige Gillingham (back left) and Reese Graven (4), trail the play. (Photo by Greg Abel)

BLUE EARTH — In the wild, tigers are usually solitary in nature. On the high school hardwood, the Tigers of Marshall have utilized a total team approach to earn the No. 6 spot in the Class AAA state girls basketball rankings this season.

Marshall starters Kennedy Drake, Morgan Bjella, Reese Drake, Taleigha Bigler and Reese Graven displayed their unselfishness and team-first approach on Saturday night as each one distributed at least two assists, pocketed a minimum of three steals and grabbed at least four rebounds to top a 67-47 Big South Showcase win over the Fairmont Cardinals.

Marshall’s trapping full-court pressure triggered a quick 15-5 lead off the opening tip before Ava Terfehr, Nevaeh Rahm and Brylee Miller clawed Fairmont back into contention by the 6-minute juncture of the initial half.

Trailing by 10 on the heels of Graven’s 3-pointer, Rahm converted one of Grace Pendergast’s three assists into a low-post basket before Terfehr drove the paint for a runner and two of her team-leading 13 points.

Kennedy Drake, who topped all scorers with 17 points, drilled the first of her game-leading five 3-pointers off an assist from younger sibling Reese Drake before Halla Casavan lined home a trey on the heels of one of Kennedy Drake’s four steals.

Rahm, who neared double-double territory with 11 points and a co-game-high nine boards, countered for the Cardinals again with two free throws before Hope Klanderud drained a right-corner 3 off a Pendergast assist to whittle the Tigers’ lead to 21-14.

Miller — who finished with nine points, six rebounds and three assists — hit a putback and a drive-and-scoop runner to cap Fairmont’s 9-0 surge to inch within three of Marshall at 21-18.

Bjella re-entered the lineup following Marshall mentor Dan Westby’s timeout at the 8:38 mark and hit a leaner in the low blocks to temporarily halt the Tigers’ scoreless drought.

Rahm’s low-post basket off a Terfehr drive-and-dish play later knotted the game at 23-all. Bjella worked the baseline for a spin bucket before Rahm hit a hard dribble-drive play in the paint off a Pendergast assist to tie the score at 28.

Unfortunately for the Cardinals, Paige Gillingham’s two free throws and a baseline pull-up shot then triggered the Tigers’ 11-0 run to close out the final 2 1/2 minutes of the opening half.

Bigler, who supplied stellar all-around numbers of nine rebounds, five steals and four assists, drove the lane for two of her nine points before Reese Drake’s steal-turned-helper led to Bjella’s low-post lay-in with 35 seconds to go.

Reese Drake then blistered the Blue Earth nets with a 3-pointer a couple of seconds prior to intermission for a 39-28 edge.

Bjella’s low-block basket and Bigler’s trifecta to open the second half widened the Tigers’ scoring spree to 16-0 and ignited a 44-28 lead.

“That stretch to end the first half and to open the second obviously proved key to our victory tonight,” said Westby.

Terfehr later delivered eight of Fairmont’s countering 11 points down the stretch only to watch as Kennedy Drake swooshed back-to-back treys to keep Marshall in the driver’s seat at 67-45 with 55 seconds remaining.

Klanderud contributed six points off the Cardinals’ bench, while Ellie Ortega pulled down seven rebounds.

Reese Drake collected six rebounds, three steals and three assists to complement her nine-point performance for the Tigers, while Casavan delivered eight points.

Fairmont (15-10) earned the No. 1 seed in the upcoming Section 3AA, South Sub-Section playoffs and netted a first-round bye on Saturday, Feb. 24. The Cardinals await the winner between No. 4-seeded Redwood Valley and No. 5-seeded Luverne in a sectional quarterfinal at 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 29, at a site to be determined.

Marshall (19-6) plays host to Class AA No. 2-ranked Minnehaha Academy at 6:45 p.m. Thursday night in a nonconference game.

Fairmont    28-19–47

Marshall    39-28–67

FAIRMONT (47)

Terfehr 6-8 1-2 13, Ortega 0-1 0-0 0, Rahm 3-7 5-6 11, Pendergast 2-10 0-0 5, Miller 3-11 2-2 9, Klanderud 2-5 0-0 6, Becker 1-2 0-0 3. Totals 17-44 8-10 47.

MARSHALL (67)

R. Drake 3-6 2-2 9, K. Drake 6-11 0-0 17, Graven 2-9 0-0 5, Bigler 4-15 0-0 9, Bjella 6-8 1-2 13, Casavan 2-6 3-5 8, Gillingham 2-10 2-2 6. Totals 25-65 8-11 67.

3-pointers: Marshall 9-20 (K. Drake 5; R. Drake, Graven, Bigler and Casavan 1 each); Fairmont 5-16 (Klanderud 2; Pendergast, Miller and Becker 1 each). Rebounds: Marshall 33 (Bigler 9); Fairmont 29 (Rahm 9). Assists: Marshall 15 (Bigler 4; R. Drake and Bjella 3 each); Fairmont 11 (Rahm, Pendergast and Miller each). Steals: Marshall 18 (Bigler 5, K. Drake 4); Fairmont 6.

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