Breckenridge point guard Johnica Bernotas dribbles the basketball across the timeline as Hillcrest guard Ruby Peterson (24) awaits her on the other side. The Cowgirls were most comfortable with their star freshman controlling the ball, as Bernotas willed her team to victory with a game-high 25 points.
Cowgirls senior Abby Johnson (right) knocked down a pair of threes at the start of the game, keeping the Comets at bay for most of the first half. Johnson scored 12 points to help Breckenridge reach the Section 6A Quarterfinals.
When Breckenridge (17-8) clinched the No. 3 seed in Section 6A playoffs, they didn’t exactly receive a gift after posting a top-20 season in Minnesota’s Class 1A girls basketball rankings. The Cowgirls hosted a very capable No. 6 seed, Hillcrest Lutheran Academy (18-10), in Thursday’s play-in round.
The Comets put the Cowgirls on upset alert, but the home squad prevailed, 67-62, behind 25 points from freshman point guard Johnica Bernotas. The young baller was unfazed during a fiery comeback attempt, drilling 13-of-17 free throws to seal the win. Bernotas was electric across the board, recording her first double-double of the season with 10 rebounds and navigating the offense with a game-high five assists.
Sydni Roberts and Abby Johnson helped Breckenridge maintain a 39-27 halftime lead by providing an outside threat. The duo made five of Breckenridge’s seven 3s in the contest. Breckenridge outrebounded Hillcrest, 45-31, as senior center Addie Twidwell put the team on her back, carrying the Cowgirls through the paint with 12 points, 16 rebounds, three assists and one block.
Twidwell deposited several easy layups to begin the game, as Breckenridge built a 20-5 lead. Hillcrest remained calm, riding a 24-point outing by Madison Ballweg and cutting the Cowgirls lead to 65-60 with 25.5 seconds left.
Hillcrest held Breckenridge’s leading scorer Parker Yaggie (17.1 ppg) to a pair of points on 1-of-7 shooting. With her team clinging to a five-point lead, Yaggie tipped an offensive rebound out to Twidwell on a missed free throw to retain possession. Breckenridge blew the second chance by traveling on the next play and Ella Knutson made the mistake hurt, going the length of the court for a layup that sliced the lead to three at 65-62.
Hillcrest sent Bernotas to the charity stripe in the final seconds and she lived up to her big-game reputation, sinking both free throws to ice the outcome.
Emily Gowin relished her role off the bench, needing only 16 minutes to dish out four assists. Kelsey Ceroll was efficient, logging four points in less than 10 minutes of court time.
Breckenridge moves on to face No. 2 seed Henning (25-2) at 2:45 p.m. Saturday at “The Hive” in Perham, Minnesota. The Cowgirls are 7-0 in Section 6A play, while the Hornets are 10-1. Breckenridge heads into the quarterfinal round scoring 57.8 points per game and allowing 52.3. Henning’s defense shines on the stat sheet, having outscored opponents by a dominant 64-39 average margin.
Henning is ranked No. 9 in the final Class 1A poll, one spot behind top-seeded Underwood, and eight spots above No. 17 Breckenridge. Hancock is ranked No. 11 in the state, making the section bracket a fully-loaded one.
Robert has spent over a decade reporting Twin Towns Area athletics, coaching baseball and officiating sporting events. From MMA to golf, he covers the entire sports spectrum through stories, photos and videos. He was named Rookie of the Year in 2021 by the North Dakota Newspaper Association.