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Survival mode: Winner holds off Roncalli comeback to advance to Class A semis

Winner sophomore Kalla Bertram (5) draws a foul during a Class A state quarterfinal game against Aberdeen Roncalli on Thursday at Sioux Falls Arena. (Nick Sabato / Republic)

SIOUX FALLS -- Winner simply wanted to survive its Class A girls basketball state quarterfinal game against Aberdeen Roncalli on Thursday at Sioux Falls Arena.

Early in the game, it appeared the No. 2 Warriors would stroll away with an easy win after leading by 11 after the first quarter and 12 in the first minute of the second. The No. 7 Cavaliers mounted a comeback, though, turning the game into a slugfest and putting Winner into survival mode.

The lead changed six times, but the undefeated Warriors were able to lean on their defense during a fourth-quarter drought to avoid the Roncalli upset bid, 59-55, and move on to face No. 6 McCook Central/Montrose in the semifinals at 4:45 p.m. today in the Premier Center.

“We just kept making adjustments to try to get them to guess,” Winner head coach Larry Aaker said. “They were getting the ball inside or getting it to (Jami) Ewart at the high post for layups, but I thought we executed down the stretch.”

Winner (22-0) was able to capitalize on some strong outside shooting in the first quarter, but Roncalli (17-5) clawed back into the game thanks to the play of Mariah Winegar.

The 5-foot-10 forward scored 18 of her game-high 26 points in the second half to pull within three at halftime and eventually helped take the lead early in the third quarter. Winegar was able to attack the Warrior defense on the glass, as five of her 12 rebounds came on the offensive end.

“They were able to get the ball inside and we struggled scoring,” Aaker said. “I think in that first quarter we were hitting more threes than in the second quarter. They went to (Winegar) inside and we didn’t really have an answer for her.”

Freshman Bella Swedlund did her best to keep pace with Winegar in the scoring column, as she scored 13 of her team-high 21 points in the first half, including a big 3-pointer in the second quarter as Roncalli began to make its run.

“When I pulled up for three, I just knew it was going in,” Swedlund said. “I knew we needed it.”

Swedlund’s scoring became more prevalent as double-digit scorers Morgan Hammerbeck and Gabriel Kocer combined for 17 points on 4 of 18 shooting. However, Swedlund got some help, as the Winner bench outscored Roncalli, 21-3, in the game.

Maggie LaCompte connected on two 3-pointers, while Kalla Bertram scored 10 points -- going 8-for-10 from the free-throw line -- while also grabbing five rebounds and five steals at the top of a press that produced 13 steals and forced 22 turnovers.

“We rely on our bench a lot -- those girls are spark plugs,” Aaker said. “Kalla Bertram comes in and brings a whole new energy level. That sparked us in the first quarter. She’s so quick and aggressive and Maggie has good instincts and is a heck of a shooter.”

Roncalli cut the lead to two points with 11.9 seconds to play, but Hammerbeck knocked down a pair of free throws -- as part of a 7 of 7 day at the line -- to clinch the game. She would also grab seven rebounds for the Warriors.

Jami Ewart added 18 points and seven rebounds for Roncalli, which plays No. 3 Todd County at 11 a.m. on today at Sioux Falls Arena.

Winner 59, Aberdeen Roncalli 55

Aberdeen Roncalli (17-5): Mariah Winegar 11-19 4-6 26, Jami Ewart 6-10 6-6 18, Megan Streier 1-8 3-4 5, Hannah Kuck 0-0 0-0 0, Jori Ewart 1-4 0-0 3, Morgan Fiedler 0-1 0-0 0, Kelsey Peterson 0-1 0-0 0, Abby Hanson 0-2 0-0 0, Allison Dix 1-2 0-0 3. Totals 20-47 13-16 55.

Winner (22-0): Abby Marts 0-0 0-0 0, Madison Thieman 0-0 0-0 0, Bella Swedlund 9-17 1-6 21, Morgan Hammerbeck 1-7 7-7 9, Gabriel Kocer 3-11 0-0 8, Maggie LaCompte 2-4 0-0 6, Ellie Brozik 0-0 0-0 0, Kalla Bertram 1-2 8-10 10, Gracie Littau 0-0 0-0 0, Kelsey Sachtjen 2-4 1-4 5. Totals 18-45 17-27 59.

AR 6 26 41 55

W 17 29 45 59

3-point field goals: AR 2-13 (Dix 1-2, Jo. Ewart 1-4, Fiedler 0-1, Hanson 0-1, Streier 0-5), W 6-16 (LaCompte 2-4, Swedlund 2-5, Kocer 2-6, Hammerbeck 0-1). Fouled out: Streier. Rebounds: AR 36 (Winegar 12), W 25 (Hammerbeck 7). Assists: AR 12 (Kuck 8), W 6 (Hammerbeck 2, Kocer 2, Swedlund 2). Steals: AR 5 (Ja. Ewart, Kuck, Streier, Winegar, Fiedler), W 13 (Bertram 5). Turnovers: AR 22, W 10. Total fouls: AR 22, W 16.