NEW ULM - Tuesday's 64-57 win over Bethany Lutheran College for Martin Luther College was big for a couple of different reasons.
One, the Knights defeated their biggest rivals to gain the season sweep of the Vikings. The second reason was the Knights kept themselves in the top four in the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference race, which is essential for a postseason berth in the conference tournament.
Leah Nass scored a career-high 26 points and grabbed eight rebounds to help the Knights improve to 7-12 overall and 5-3 in the UMAC.
Bethany slipped to 5-14 overall and 3-5 in conference play.
"I was really impressed, we were shorthanded and Leah Nass really stepped up today," MLC coach Larry Czer said.?"This is what we've been waiting for, it's what she's capable of doing and it gave us a boost."
While Nass was providing most of the scoring, Alex Anthon also helped out with 15 points and six rebounds for the Knights. Brittney Gossen joined Anthon and Nass in double figures as she scored 10 points.
BLC was led by Jade Pelzl, who scored 14 points. Shelby Wiederhoeft led the way inside with 10 points and 18 rebounds and Kasslin Swenson finished with nine points and 10 rebounds. The Vikings outrebounded the Knights 49-40.
The Knights held a decent-sized lead for most of the first half, but the Vikings closed the half strong and cut the double-digit deficit to 29-27 at halftime.
In the second half, the Knights missed some early shots and the Vikings took a one-point lead, but that was as big of a lead as they would get.
Later, a Nass putback gave the Knights a commanding 54-37 lead with 7:50 left in the game.
Like they did in the first half, the Vikings did fight back and they eventually trimmed the lead to less than 10. But it was too late as the Knights won their second straight UMAC game.
The Knights hit the road this weekend with away games at Northland Friday and at St. Scholastica Saturday. Northland entered Tuesday with a 3-4 record in the UMAC and St. Scholastica was tied with the Knights with a 4-3 conference record before MLC's win last night.