for the second time, breckenridge loses tight battle
• Robert Wanek Jr.
The Breckenridge Cowgirls continued their late-season skid on Friday, losing to a 15-1 Pelican Rapids team by a score of 41-35 at home. The loss marked three in a row, all against section opponents, by a combined 10 points.
With the loss, Breckenridge fell to 11-6 as the projected sixth seed in Section 8AA. Still, hanging close for a second time with the three-time reigning Heart O’ Lakes Conference champions and top-seeded Vikings is a welcome sign entering tournament time. Breckenridge dropped the first meeting, 43-41 on the road. Pelican Rapids has won 10 consecutive games.
The Vikings and Cowgirls entered the contest with two of the top defenses in the section, allowing 39 and 42 points per game, respectively. This game featured the same drawn out zone defenses, resulting in a 15-12 halftime lead for the visitors.
Seventh grade phenom Johnica Bernotas shared primary point guard duties throughout the half and did so with poise. She took care of the basketball and forced a five-second violation that kept the score within one possession heading into the locker room.
Bernotas only scored five points, but they were big ones. Her baseline three in the second half keyed an eight-point run that cut the Vikings’ lead to 28-26. She also buried a step-back jumper from the wing to tie the game at 35-35 with 1:49 remaining.
The Cowgirls struggled with a 29.3% field goal percentage, but Jude Held tried her best to put Breckenridge on the board. The senior scored a team-high 12 points, while also leading the way with seven rebounds and three steals. Carcie Materi was the only other Cowgirl in double figures with 10 points. The pair was each 2-of-5 from 3-PT distance.
After Bernotas’ clutch jumper tied things up with less than two minutes to go, Greta Tollefson drew two fouls and made all four free throws to put the game on ice. Tollefson scored a game-high 19 points and grabbed 9 rebounds. Breckenridge trailed by four with 20 seconds left, but failed to get a shot off until the waning seconds.
The Cowgirls enter a packed Section 8AA playoff field featuring eight teams with winning records, including six on the south side. Breckenridge defeated the north’s top seed, Crookston, in the season opener. They also own season splits against potential opponents in Perham, Barnesville, and Hawley.