Anything can happen when Prairie Conference rivals Upsala and Swanville get together on the hardwood.
The two locked horns in a classic, Jan. 7 — a game that wasn’t decided until the clock hit zero. Taylor Soltis provided the heroics for Upsala when she dropped in a layup at the buzzer to break a tied score and give the Cardinals a 50-48 victory.
“All of the girls contributed to this great team win,” said Upsala coach Sara Herzog.
It was a fitting end to a game that was tight from start to finish. The Bulldogs managed to grab a slim, 21-20 lead when the two squads broke for halftime. Upsala matched that one-point advantage until the clock hit zero and Soltis’ layup broke a 48-all tie.
Herzog said Kylie Roerick “exploded” in the victory, leading her team with 14 points. Kristine Biniek added 13 to the winning effort.
Amelia Hudalla finished with a double-double for the Bulldogs, as she tallied 10 points and 12 rebounds to go with three assists. Lauren Miller added 13 points, seven boards and three dimes, with Karley Loven and Mackenzie Morris also checking in with double-figures, going for 11 points each, and Loven adding eight rebounds.
“The girls are working hard and getting better,” said Swanville coach Aaron Gapinski. “We need to clean a few things up yet, but overall the girls are putting themselves in good positions where it comes down to just a few possessions.”
The win highlighted a week for Upsala in which it finished 1-2. The Cardinals lost a 66-38 non-conference contest at Mille Lacs, Jan. 6, and came out on the wrong end of a 67-46 final score against Crosby-Ironton, Tuesday, in Upsala.
In the loss to Mille Lacs, Biniek finished with 13 points while Brenna Graves was right on her heels with 11.
“We struggled finishing at the basket in the first half, but put it all together in the second to go on a run,” Herzog said.
Tuesday, against Crosby-Ironton, she said the Cardinals struggled with rebounding, boxing out and turning the ball over. She was, however, pleased with the girls’ shooting from 3-point range and the way they played defensively.
That 3-point barrage included a pair of triples by Biniek late in the first half to keep Upsala within striking distance.
Upsala (4-7 overall, 1-3 conference) travels to Long Prairie-Grey Eagle, Thursday. It will be back in action at 7:15 p.m. Tuesday at Melrose Area.
The loss for Swanville was the second in as many days, as it also dropped a tough, 55-47 non-conference contest at Nevis, Jan. 6.
The Bulldogs again kept the contest tight the whole way. The Tigers led by just three, 25-22, at half time. Swanville was unable to close the gap, however, and dropped its first game since Dec. 21, 2021.
Loven had a strong night in the loss, pouring in 17 points to go with five rebounds. Avery Douglas added 12 points and five boards, with Miller scoring 10 and grabbing six caroms. Hudalla added six rebounds to the effort.
“We are trending in the right direction even though the record isn’t quite showing that yet,” Gapinski said. “I believe in these girls, that they will continue to work hard and get better each day. They are a terrific group, and playing close games now will hopefully help us down the stretch.”
The results were much better, Tuesday, when the Bulldogs claimed a convincing, 62-30 conference win over Long Prairie-Grey Eagle.
Swanville (3-5 overall, 1-2 conference) hosts Osakis, Thursday, and will be back on the road at 7:15 p.m. Tuesday for a non-conference battle with Mille Lacs.