Hot start for Wildfire

In a back-and-forth girls basketball game filled with big baskets, it was all but certain that one shot in the final moments would determine the outcome.

Naomi Meier
Press Photo by Dustin Monke Mott-Regent sophomore Naomi Meier, right, gets stuffed by Hettinger junior Paige Gravning while going up for a shot as Hettinger junior Reba Resner, left, and senior Samantha Kristy, second from left, converge on the play during Friday's District 13 girls basketball tournament quarterfinal game at Knights of Columbus Activities Center.

In a back-and-forth girls basketball game filled with big baskets, it was all but certain that one shot in the final moments would determine the outcome.

While she didn't hit a buzzer-beater, Mott-Regent senior MacKenzie Hertz provided the heroics and helped her team to a 64-62 victory over Hettinger on Friday night during the District 13 tournament quarterfinals at Knights of Columbus Activities Center.

"She was feeling it and I told her, 'If you're feeling it Mac, you just go for it,'" Mott-Regent head coach Brad Greff said.

Hertz led Mott-Regent with 24 points, but scored her biggest bucket on an 8-foot floater as she drove right of the lane with less than 32 seconds left. Hertz was fouled and the basketball bounced up off the rim before rattling in with 31 seconds left.

She missed the free throw, but that turned out positively for the Wildfire (8-11). The rebound resulted in a held-ball call from officials with the possession arrow giving the ball back to the Wildfire.


The Black Devils (7-13) quickly fouled Hertz, who made one free throw that put the No. 6 seed Wildfire ahead 63-60.

Hettinger, the No. 3 seed, got a layup from senior Samantha Kristy to cut the lead to one with 15 seconds left. But the Black Devils went for the steal instead of the foul that would have stopped the clock.

Officials finally blew their whistles with 0.2 left and Mott-Regent's Alexis Roth capped the game with a free throw.

"It's really big for us because we're finally clicking together," Hertz said.

Mott-Regent now takes on second-seeded Heart River at 7:30 p.m. today in the semifinals while Hettinger faces seventh-seeded New England at 4:30 p.m. in a loser-out game.

Trailing 46-42 early in the fourth quarter, Mott-Regent went to Hertz and sophomore speedster Marah Friez for a spark.

Friez had eight points, all layups, during a 15-1 run that put Mott-Regent ahead 57-47 with 2:46 remaining.

"It's nice to be able to get steals and get the ball down the court to her," Hertz said. "She can catch anything. It's nice to have that speed."


Hettinger wasn't done though.

Senior Tess Kilwein and Kristy each hit 3-pointers to cut the lead to 59-55 with 1:38 left. Kristy then made a put-back off a missed free throw and followed that with another 3-pointer 20 seconds later to tie the game at 60.

Kristy made five 3-pointers, scoring a game-high 31 points and adding nine rebounds and five assists.

Greff said he was fine with that.

"I told the girls, they have three main players: (Alix) Pearson, Kristy and Kilwein," he said. "If we can shut down two of them, we can let one loose. That really was my belief right from the start."

Kilwein finished with 14 points and seven assists.

Hettinger clung to a 30-27 halftime lead after a back-and-forth first half.

But Hertz opened up the third quarter with a deep 3-pointer, one of her four, and the chase was on from there.


"We just let it get away," Hettinger head coach John Butterfield said. "We haven't played a close game all year. It's either we get beat by 20 or we win handedly. Momentum predicated on trying to get it up too quick and throwing up bad shots."

The Black Devils also ran into foul trouble that hurt their ability to grab rebounds in the final minutes.

Senior forward Alix Pearson fouled out with 4:31 left in the fourth quarter, just as Mott-Regent was beginning to make their surge. Senior center Nicole Johnson fouled out 2 minutes later.

Pearson had nine points and nine rebounds.

"We fight back so hard that we foul our way out of it," Kristy said. "We need to work on not fouling. We've got to get in on our inside game and work in there because that's where we score big."

MR 14 27 39 64

Hettinger 13 30 42 62

MR: MacKenzie Hertz 24, Shelby Miller 15, Marah Friez 13, Brandi Poehls 4, Naomi Meier 3, Alexis Roth 3, Kim Miller 2.


H: Samantha Kristy 31, Tess Kilwein 14, Alix Pearson 9, Reba Resner 7, Paige Gravning 1.

3-pointers: MR 5 (Hertz 4, S. Miller 1), H 7 (Kristy 5, Kilwein 2). Free throws: MR 13-23, H 11-25. Total fouls: MR 20, H 22. Fouled out: MR, S. Miller, Poehls; H, Pearson, Johnson. Rebounds: MR 30 (S. Miller 6), H 41 (Kristy 9, Pearson 9). Assists: MR 6 (Friez 3), H 14 (Kilwein 7). Steals: MR 5 (five with 1), H 5 (Kilwein 2). Blocks: None. Turnovers: MR 15, H 14.

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