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Strong finish powers MCM past Crofton at Hanson Classic

McCook Central/Montrose's Madisen Koepsell drives around Crofton, Nebraska's Alexis Arens (24) during Saturday's Hanson Classic at the Corn Palace. (Marcus Traxler / Republic)

The fourth quarter was the right time for McCook Central/Montrose Saturday.

Trailing by as many as 11 points in the third quarter, the Fighting Cougars rallied in the fourth quarter to slip past Nebraska prep power Crofton 59-55 at the 35th Annual Girls Hanson Classic at the Corn Palace.

In the fourth quarter, MCM trailed 53-45 with 6 minutes and 48 seconds to play when the Fighting Cougars used a 14-2 run to close out the contest.

Senior Morgan Koepsell led the comeback with two 3-pointers, scoring eight points in the fourth quarter. With the game tied at 55 and less than 30 seconds remaining, the Fighting Cougars’ Natalie Gottlob hit a short shot in the middle of the lane to put MCM in front for good.

Crofton had one last chance but turned the ball over under the basket, before a pair of free throws from Gottlob secured the win.

“We started playing hard and we played, finally, with a lot of effort and intensity,” MCM coach Doug Durfee said. “We tried to get our girls to play hard and more aggressive early, but they played soft.”

The Warriors’ full-court pressure was a persistent problem throughout the game for MCM, causing 31 turnovers from the Fighting Cougars.

“It caught us off guard a bit,” Durfee said of the press. “I was happy that toward the end (of the game), we settled down and started breaking it with the press.”

Crofton led 13-11 after the first quarter and 36-31 at halftime. Koepsell led MCM (7-1) with a double-double, recording 14 points and 13 rebounds, followed by Jacy Pulse with 11 points. McKenna Kranz handed out five assists.

The Fighting Cougars were 24-of-51 for 59 percent from the field and 6-of-10 for 60 percent from the free-throw line. MCM outrebounded Crofton 36-24.

“We’re a young team that’s learning how to win and right now we have some things to learn,” Crofton coach Aaron Losing said. “Hopefully in the future we can learn in the fourth quarter. Right now, our young team is kind of inexperienced and we make some mistakes when crunch time gets here, and it has cost us some games.”

Lacey Sprakel led Crofton (9-5) with 20 points and Madisen Kube logged 15 points. Josie Sanger handed out six assists while Danielle Steffen had five assists. The Warriors shot 38 percent in the game and were 8-for-15 on free throws. MCM hosts Chester Area Monday in Montrose.  

C 13 36 49 55

MCM 11 31 43 59