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Girls basketball: Lakers struggle offensively as St. Cloud takes inaugural game at Lakeshirts Fieldhouse

Detroit Lakes girls basketball team has a tough time slowing down St. Cloud's rebounding presence in a 58-44 loss at Lakeshirts Fieldhouse on Tuesday night.

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Jacee Hauser hits a three-pointer in the second half of Detroit Lakes' 58-44 loss to St. Cloud on Jan. 4, 2021 at Lakeshirts Fieldhouse. Jared Rubado / Detroit Lakes Tribune
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The inaugural game at Lakeshirts Fieldhouse saw the St. Cloud Crush girls basketball team dominate the glass to hand Detroit Lakes its fourth consecutive loss.

The Lakers (1-4) fell 58-44 to the Crush (7-3), the combined schools of St. Cloud Apollo and St. Cloud Tech. After two weeks without a game, the Detroit Lakes struggled to find their footing early on.

“It kind of feels like starting the whole season over again, especially with your wind and the chemistry,” head coach Rachel Johnson said of coming back from the holiday layoff. “Rebuilding that back in a short amount of time proved to be challenging.”

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Ella Okeson drives to the rim in the second half of Detroit Lakes' 58-44 loss to St. Cloud on Jan. 4, 2021 at Lakeshirts Fieldhouse. Jared Rubado / Detroit Lakes Tribune

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St. Cloud had an advantage in rebounding from the opening tip. The Lakers struggled to limit the Crush’s second-chance opportunities while giving up height in the post.

“We weren’t too worried about the height they had on us,” Johnson said. “In practice, we had some of the shorter kids use noodles and things like that to simulate that height. We really preach that if we box out and rebound, and we also play smart and don’t foul, we’ll be fine. I’ll give it to Crus. They did exactly what we didn’t want them to do. They outrebounded us and outscored us on the glass. That’s tough to beat when you play like we’re playing right now.”

A back-and-forth first half saw St. Cloud take a 30-24 lead into the locker room after guards Sarah Harris and Jayna Benson took over. The Crush cut their guards routinely through the Detroit Lakes defense several times in the first half. The Lakers did an impressive job of limiting St. Cloud’s two standouts in the second half.

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Helena Daggett looks for a teammate to pass to in the second half of Detroit Lakes' 58-44 loss to St. Cloud on Jan. 4, 2021 at Lakeshirts Fieldhouse. Jared Rubado / Detroit Lakes Tribune

“We changed our defense up a little bit,” Johnson said. “They’re not a great shooting team, so we change our defense a little bit to fit that. They ended up slowing down a bit in the second half, but as they slowed down, we slowed down too. Just getting our legs back under us from the holidays and getting more shots up in this new gym is going to be a big focus for us.”

Trailing by 10 with roughly 12 minutes left, the Lakers found a rhythm offensively and staged a comeback. Jacee Hauser hit a three to cut St. Cloud’s lead to 44-42 with eight minutes left in the half before the Crush went on a 9-0 run. The run turned into a 14-2 stretch to end the game.

The Lakers were supposed to play in a holiday tournament in Bemidji over Christmas break. However, a snowstorm canceled the trip. One of the biggest challenges for Detroit Lakes on Tuesday was coming back from the extended layoff.

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Abby Larson throws a lob pass from the perimeter in the second half of Detroit Lakes' 58-44 loss to St. Cloud on Jan. 4, 2021 at Lakeshirts Fieldhouse. Jared Rubado / Detroit Lakes Tribune

“They shook off the cobwebs and looked much better in the second half,” Johnson said. “The weather was there, and we always tell the girls we can’t control our circumstances. We can only control how we handle them. It’s hard to come back from not playing, especially when they’re not in school. Their mental capacity has changed. Being mentally prepared is something we talk about a lot. It’s something that we focus on because we are young. What team doesn’t need that?”

With games against Willmar (6-5), Pequot Lakes (9-1), Sartell (8-1) and Alexandria (3-5) coming up, the Lakers are going to figure out the necessary steps they need to take against solid competition.

“We keep getting better every week defensively,” Johnson said. “We have young girls. They’re not really inexperienced, but they’re still figuring out personnel from team to team and what their own strengths and weaknesses are. We encourage the girls to watch (film) and play one-on-one in practice to figure out what they need to get better at.”

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Jacee Hauser, left, and Grace Gunderson do a pregame handshake before Detroit Lakes' 58-44 loss to St. Cloud on Jan. 4, 2021 at Lakeshirts Fieldhouse. Jared Rubado / Detroit Lakes Tribune

Related Topics: BASKETBALL
Jared Rubado is the sports editor for the Detroit Lakes Tribune and the Perham Focus. He moved to the area in September of 2021 after covering sports for the Alexandria Echo Press for nearly three years. Jared graduated from the University of Augustana in 2018 with degrees in journalism and sports managment.
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