With Braham holding a nine-point lead as the first half wound down, St. Cloud Tech post Nyadak Riek laid a jarring screen on Braham star Rebekah Dahlman that knocked the guard to the ground and had her noticeably upset.
Turns out that blow might have been exactly what the Bombers needed to help shake off some first-half rust and ignite a second-half surge that helped them run past St. Cloud Tech 63-50 at the Tech Girls Basketball Holiday Classic.
“The second half, that first five minutes, we literally took it to them. We had stops and fastbreaks and that was huge for us,” Dahlman said. “That first five minutes is probably the best we played all year.”
Dahlman – who has scored more than 4,000 career points and is heading to Vanderbilt on a scholarship next year – led the charge by driving the lane three straight times in the opening portion of the half to either score herself or find a teammate for a basket. She finished with 21 points, which is below her season average.
“We tried to mix it up a little bit, we started in a box-and-1 – just trying to change the pace of the game and keep them guessing a little bit, but she made some great shots,” Tech head coach Sascha Hansen said. “We held her to 21, which is better than what she was averaging, but we knew that she was going to score her points.”
The strategy seemed to work in the first half. The Tigers (4-5) were keeping pace with the Class 2A fifth-ranked Bombers (9-0) thanks in part to stout defense and an offense that ran through junior Kaila Burroughs. Burroughs finished with eight first-half points and 17 in the game.
“We were running our offense, running plays and getting open, which kept us in the game until the second half,” Burroughs said. “We practiced a different defense, a box-and-1, so we isolated her, face-guarded her so she didn’t score. She figured it out and kind of knew what we were doing.”
Despite Dahlman’s offensive prowess, her teammates served up just as many critical blows in the game. Junior guard Kayla Nickles tallied 17 points in the win and Dani Braund added eight points for the Bombers.
In the second half especially, Braham’s ability to spread the ball around seemed to make chipping away at what was a double-digit deficit for most of the second half.
“Kalya Nicholas is very good player, kind of an unsung hero sometimes when you play with somebody like Rebekah Dahlman. Everybody knows who Becca is,” Braham coach Tim Malone said. “We’ve got some other very good players that are better sometimes because of what Becca opens up for them.”
Braham’s offense became more potent in the second half. The Tigers grew more out of synch as time passed, ruining the chances of a comeback bid.
Hansen said that some of the team’s issues can be fixed when 6-foot-2 senior center Anne Soenneker returns to the team. She missed Thursday’s contest with the flu.
“Obviously we didn’t have a lot of touches in there tonight, although (Riek) came off the bench and provided some firepower,” she said. “If you don’t have an inside game, it’s hard for you to get open looks on the outside.”
Despite the loss, Burroughs believes that the tournament will prove to be an important experience for herself and her teammates.
“Playing as a team more is what we’re working on,” Burroughs said. “We’re focused on coming together as a team, being able to run our offenses and having everything mesh together so we can play better during the playoffs.”
BRAHAM – Rebekah Dahlman 21, Kayla Nickles 17, Dani Braund 8, Jaclyn Hollenkamp 7, Jenna Winter 6, Angela Bendickson 6.
ST. CLOUD TECH – Kaila Burroughs 17, Sam Boettcher 7, Jill Kedrowski 7, Elizabeth Krippner 5, Nyadak Riek 4, Leah Wurm 4, Kaelyn Angell 3, Tiana Brown 3.
Halftime score: Braham 33, St. Cloud Tech 24.