Chargers dominate boards in win over Thunderbirds | News, Sports, Jobs


Staff photo by Ari Selvey
Minnesota Valley Lutheran’s Avery Freier drives past Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop’s Marti Jacobson during a Tomahawk Conference girls basketball game Monday at MVL high school.

NEW ULM — Minnesota Valley Lutheran pulled away late in the second half with the help of strong rebounding and defensive intensity to defeat Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop 57-48 Monday in a Tomahawk Conference girls basketball game at MVL high school.

MVL had four players with five our more rebounds on the game. Mackenzie Merseth led the Chargers with 14 points and 19 rebounds, while Olivia Hammer had 13 points and five rebounds. Avery Hopp had 9 points and nine rebounds, while Avery Freier had 7 points and four rebounds. Marley Schauer added 6 points and seven rebounds for MVL.

“I was a little worried with the way we started off rebounding,” MVL head coach Hailey Santos said. “But we definitely picked it up and recognized that that’s an area of improvement that our team has. When we take care of the boards, we’re able to control the tempo, because we’re able to get the ball up the court quicker than allowing than allowing them to have those easy second-chance opportunities.

“Mackenzie again, dominant on the boards, had 19 rebounds, and over 10 of those in the first half. I think our girls were very disciplined and found matchups and took care of business on rebounds in a way I’ve never seen them do before.”

Marti Jacobson led the Thunderbirds with 12 points, while Trinity Stearns had 11 points. Nicole Duehn added six points for GFW.

Another key contribution to MVL’s win was free-throw shooting. Despite GFW shooting 25 free throws to MVL’s 18, both teams ended the game with 12 made shots from the charity stripe. MVL’s advantage at the line helped it keep the game close in the first half and seal the game away late.

MVL has already surpassed its win total from a year ago as they improve to 2-6 on the season and 1-2 in conference. This is also the Chargers first win in conference since defeating Sleepy Eye on Feb. 11, 2022.

The teams started the game trading baskets, with Jacobson and Hammer trading 3s early in the game. GFW took a 9-5 lead with a pair of transition layups by Jennna Schweiss and Katelyn Beranek, and the Thunderbirds stayed ahead by a possession or two until Merseth got a putback basket to tie the game at 20. GFW stayed in the lead, however, and held onto a 24-22 going into the half.

Freier quickly errased that advantage with a 3-point shot to open the second half, giving the Chargers thier first lead of the night. Freier’s shot kick-started a 14-3 run by the Chargers though a GFW timeout before the Thunderbirds came back with their own 6-0 run, capped off by a layup by Stearns though traffic, to cut the MVL lead to 36-33. However, the momentum was all in the Chargers’ favor as they began to build their lead into multiple possessions. A kickout after an offensive rebound by Merseth to Hammer ended in a made 3 to give MVL a 51-39 lead, sealing the game in a fitting way for Chargers.

In MVL’s previous win against Madelia, Santos thought that the team could still work on their defensive effort and intensity. This game, however, there was no doubt that the Chargers were locked in on the defensive end of the court, forcing contested shots late in the shot clock on multiple occasions.

“The effort was 100% better than what I’ve seen from any other game from us this season,” Santos said. “The really nice thing that I’m proud of our girls for doing is making adjustments on the fly and recognizing GFW’s offense and their pick-and-roll opportunities. GFW is a matchup nightmare for a lot of teams with their height and length. We need to make sure that we take care of it with our ball pressure and intensity, and the girls did a phenomenal job with that today.”

MVL will host Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s on Thursday, Jan. 4. GFW (4-5, 1-2) travel to Buffalo Lake-Hector-Stewart on Thursday, Jan. 4.

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