NEW ULM - Minnesota Valley Lutheran watched a 10-point second half lead disappear, but clutch shooting and tough defense led the Chargers to a 42-40 victory in the Martin Luther College tip-off tournament championship game.
Anna Munsen, who dominated for MVL in Friday's game, once again was the top scorer for the Chargers with 11 points. Charlotte Pfingsten canned a pair of 3-pointers on 4-of-5 shooting and Sarah Burk grabbed 10 rebounds coming off the bench.
"St. Croix has some big girls inside who did a nice job," MVL head coach Dave Biedenbender said. "They made a nice come back, we knew that they were a good team. I think we played some good defense at the end and Larissa DeRousse - she had some big free throws there at the end to win it - we're just thankful that she hit those."
Down 10 points early in the second half, St. Croix Lutheran knew that if it wanted a chance to win, it needed to step up in a hurry.
And the Crusaders did.
A 10-1 run in just over three minutes cut the Chargers' lead down to just one point and a lay-up with 9:58 to go put the Crusaders on top.
The Chargers and Crusaders exchanged a couple baskets and then Pfingsten banked in a 3-pointer with 3:05 to go to give the Chargers the lead. Then with the game tied and six seconds to play Larissa DeRousse stepped up and sealed the championship game.
MVL improves to 3-0 on the young season and will look forward to four crucial conference games before the holiday break, three of them being on the road.
"We want to get off to a great start in the conference," Biedenbender said. "It starts at [Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop] on Monday and we will have to bounce back from this and get ready to go Monday."