CHIPPEWA FALLS — The start of the season has been eventful for the Menomonie girls basketball team.
The Mustangs have battled through tight contests and a pause to their season in the early going but came through with a 41-38 victory at Chippewa Falls on Saturday evening against the Cardinals.
Emma Mommsen led all scorers with 16 points for the Mustangs (3-2, 2-2) while Sammy Jacobsen scored eight points in the win.
The victory is the first for the team since a 45-28 win at Stanley-Boyd on Dec. 11.
“We compete,” Menomonie coach Storm Harmon said of his team. “The girls they really do play hard.”
A late surge in the first half and another early in the second half turned a six-point deficit into a seven-point lead for Menomonie. The Mustangs controlled the boards and used a pair of second-chance shots from Mommsen and Ashleah Quilling to help take a 21-19 lead in the final minute of the half before entering halftime tied at 21.
Chi-Hi’s Emily Hakes hit a 3-pointer to start the second half but Menomonie responded with the next 10 points to take a lead it wouldn’t relinquish, although the Cardinals did have a chance to tie the game in the final seconds. Mommsen, Quilling, Sammy Jacobsen and Helen Chen each contributed to the run with points and a 3-pointer later by Cece Behrend pushed the Menomonie lead to nine at 36-27 with 10 minutes to go.
But the Cardinals chipped back into the game by keeping the Mustangs from scoring for more than five minutes until Mary Berg’s basket at the 4:31 mark made it 39-32. The Cardinals cut the lead to 41-38 with 37 seconds left after Brooklyn Sandvig’s basket and had a chance to tie after a missed bonus free throw from the Mustangs, but Menomonie’s defense kept the Cardinals from getting a good look at a potential tying shot.
“We’re a big deflection team, so a lot of our stuff was created on defense and just got them off balance,” Harmon said. “But we crashed (the boards) hard and we kind of overloaded on the offensive end knowing that because of their zone they were collapsing a lot so we were able to get a lot of those opportunities out of it.”
Savannah Hinke scored 10 points for Chi-Hi (0-8, 0-4).
Menomonie started the season 2-1 with wins over Rice Lake and Stanley-Boyd coming after a 70-66 loss at Eau Claire North on Dec. 8.
“We played River (Falls) last night and we played Chippewa (Falls) tonight and the one thing the film is telling me is the girls go out and compete, no matter what you’re throwing out on the court because we all have different adversities that we’re facing,” Harmon said.
The team had positive COVID-19 tests in the days after the win over the Orioles and the program shut down for two weeks. After the two-week period the program had a five day acclimation period that occurred over the Christmas break and the Mustangs were able to get the needed practices in prior to their return to the court, a 54-53 loss in the final seconds at Holmen on Jan. 4. Mommsen scored 13 points and Berg and Quilling each added eight for the Mustangs in Friday’s 46-41 loss to River Falls.
The Mustangs have a young roster with one senior with wing Mackenzie Bird and are without all-conference junior guard Shelby Thornton. Harmon has gone deep into his bench throughout the season as his team looks to develop not just throughout the rest of the season but also to set the stage for success in future years.
“That’s thing too with the way the schedule is set for us because of having to be rescheduled, we told everyone we’re going to need each of you every night,” Harmon said, “and that’s not the case for a lot of teams. They don’t go 10 deep and play meaningful minutes and so I think the few practices we get they’re pretty locked in. We’ve kept it really simple.
“The things we do, for us it’s simple and we haven’t really elaborated on a whole lot. The main thing is I’m just telling them to play with a lot of heart and hopefully you can be in it at the end.”
A busy return to action continues for the Mustangs following a game Monday at Eau Claire Memorial by hosting Hudson on Friday before a road rematch at Eau Claire Memorial on Jan. 16.