NEW ULM - If the first half caused the loss, the second half was a moral victory for the New Ulm Eagles girls basketball team Tuesday night.
The Eagles 42-32 loss to the Mankato East Cougars dropped them to 1-9, but New Ulm outscored the Cougars 17-11 and put a defensive kibosh on the scoring of Mankato East forward Taylor Karge, who had 17 points in the first half.
"We didn't do a very good job on Karge in the first half," New Ulm coach Dan Reinhart said. "We kept allowing her to go to the baseline. But I thought we outplayed them most of the game. We played hard and I'm really happy with the effort."
The first half boiled down to three things: Karge, lack of rebounding and cold shooting by the Eagles. New Ulm was forced to stay in a perimeter game and take low-percentage shots from the outside and when the Eagles missed, they didn't get a second shot.
Every time the Eagles tried to get the ball inside to their player in the middle, Ellie Schneider, the Cougars swarmed Schneider and either forced her to send the ball back outside or denied her a shot. New Ulm also didn't attack the basket to draw fouls as evidenced by zero free throws in the first half.
Meanwhile, Karge accounted for more than half of Mankato East's offense as they took a 35-15 lead into halftime, with 17 of the Cougars' points belonging to Karge.
The start of the second half began a whole new chapter. Within the first minute, the Eagles had already snagged three boards and Taylor Bouldan had a layup, their first inside points of the game. Down 35-19, New Ulm finally got to go to the line for free throws.
Nikki Dittrich scored two freebies, followed by buckets from Meleah Reinhart and Kelsey Anderson and the Eagles were back in the hunt, down 35-25. Karge didn't score her only points in the half until there was 6:31 left, making it 39-26.
New Ulm then scored on a Anderson fast break and a Briana Sieve hoop scored after two offensive rebounds to cut the Cougars lead to 39-30, but that was as close as the Eagles would get to holding a lead.
New Ulm hosts Blue Earth Area at 7:30 p.m. on Friday.