With the St. James Area Saints down 13 with 12:00 left in the second half, Kaydi Anderson came alive, and sparked a furious rally, propelling the Saints to a thrilling 57-53 victory.
Both teams got off to a slow start, with the Saints not recording their first field goal until four minutes into the game.
“I thought we were getting good shots,” said head coach Steve Witcraft. “They were really nervous beforehand. I think it was just getting over the nerves.”
The team’s traded buckets for most of the middle part of the first half, with buckets from Ellie Becker and Renata Hernandez. St. James took the lead on an Anderson offensive rebound and put-back to give the Saints the lead at 19-17 with just over 5:00 left in the half.
Anderson scored nine of the first 19 points for the Saints.
With Anderson on the bench late in the first half, Nicollet was able to regain the lead and take a 26-23 lead into halftime.
“Kaydi’s is our rebounder,” said Witcraft. “She’s our first offensive weapon and she had two fouls and I didn’t want her to get a third before halftime.”
The Raiders would keep that momentum through the early portion of the second half.
Grace Dehen knocked down a corner three to extend the lead to 32-25. Dehen would finish with 16 points to lead the Raiders.
Zoey Weller crashed the glass on numerous possessions, and the threes continued to fall for Nicollet. The Raiders started the second half on a 14-4 run and extended the lead to 40-27 with 12 minutes left.
Then, the Saints switched out of their traditional 1-3-1 defense and switched to man-to-man.
“They were breaking our 1-3-1 and I thought the switch helped us a lot, and that’s when we made our run.”
The run would come with some help from the bench.
Despite the bench not scoring a single point in the first half, eighth-grader Taylor Sodeman and sophomore Kelsey Grunewald scored five quick points to cut the lead to eight.
“Their defensive work is what they’re for,” said Witcraft. “They did a great job defensively and rebounding. And then Taylor came in and hit a three when we were struggling and that was good for an eighth grader to get her first points.”
Chloe Mickelson then rattled home a three, and the Saints were right back in it.
Kaydi Anderson took a perfect entry pass from Sodeman and converted on a layup on the next possession. Jill Simpson connected on a layup to end the 10-1 run by the Saints.
Then, with five minutes left, St. James would storm ahead.
Anderson converted an and-one layup, then hit a midrange jumper to cut the lead to two. Following a bucket by Nicollet, freshman Jaelyn Haler would grab an offensive rebound and put back a layup. Hernandez knocked down a pull-up midrange jumper in transition to tie the game at 46-46.
Anderson would cap an 11-3 run with a layup that gave St. James the lead, but Marah Hulke would bury a crowd-quieting three to give Nicollet a 50-48.
From there on out, it was all Kaydi Anderson.
She would score seven straight points, and grab two crucial offensive rebounds down the stretch to push the Saints’ lead to 55-50.
“She wanted the ball,” said Witcraft. “She told the girls ‘give me the ball’. She knew what she wanted to do and she finished.”
Anderson would finish with 25 points to lead all scorers. She was the only Saint to finish in double figures in points.
Hulke would hit a three with 3.5 seconds left to cut the lead to two, but Jaelyn Haler would ice the game with two free throws.
With the win, St. James beats Nicollet for the first time since 2016. The Saints next hit the hardwood on Saturday at New Ulm Cathedral.