The Breckenridge girls basketball team’s season came to an end with a 53-47 loss in Perham, Minnesota, on Thursday, Feb. 27. It was the opening round of the Section 8AA Tournament and the tight battle came down to free throws. Breck struggled to knock down their freebies in crunch time while the home team sank their last eight attempts from the stripe.
“When you play good teams like this, it comes down to making free throws and they held the advantage in that category,” Breckenridge coach Austin Imdieke said. “It’s a tough pill to swallow right now, but I couldn’t be more proud of the effort. Anybody who was at the game or listened on the radio, you know they played their butts off. You can’t doubt the hustle for one second.”
Both teams were running their sets to a T to set up open looks throughout the night. The Yellowjackets did a bulk of their damage throughout the night by getting open cuts to the hoop.
Perham went on a 10-1 run early in the half, but Abby Johnson stepped up to knock down a triple to get the offense back in a groove.
Following the Johnson trey ball, Emma Ihland sparked a 12-3 run with back-to-back baskets. The first was a scoop layup and she followed it up with a 3-pointer. It was the final game for Ihland, who has been the team’s lockdown defender all year.
“People forget that Emma Ihland was playing JV at the beginning of last year. She ended up being a starter at the end of the year and covering teams’ best guard every single night. This year she continued to work hard and did the same thing,” Imdieke said. “Unfortunately, she got sick in the middle of the year and it was really tough for her coming back from mono, but she grinded. She wanted the most out of her senior year and she makes big plays like that.”
Ihland got the run started and Grace Conzemius took over from there. The junior big scored eight consecutive points for the Cowgirls to give them the lead in the final four minutes. Two of the makes came inside off her teammates’ misses.
“Grace is pretty good at that. Sometimes you’ve just got to spark it in her for her to realize her full potential all the time,” Imdieke said. “She’s a grinder and if you just look at her face by the end of the game, she’s working so hard all the time. She doesn’t give up, doesn’t take a play off, she’s just grinding.”
When Perham started their clutch free-throw streak, Breck found themselves down by five in the final minute. Riley Lorenz, the team’s only other senior, once again didn’t shy away from the big shot with a corner 3-pointer. The massive shot came with 30 seconds left, cutting the lead to a pair of points.
“If anybody’s watched any of our games, Riley Lorenz is ‘Ms. Big Shot.’” Imdieke said. “She knocks down some tough shots and she did it again tonight. She does that for you. Both of those players are tough players to replace.”
Following Lorenz’s triple, Breck trapped off the inbound and forced a pass to go sailing out of bounds to get the ball back with a chance to tie it up. The Cowgirls failed to capitalize, allowing the Yellowjackets to close the game out at the charity stripe.
The pair of seniors will be difficult to replace for BHS, but the bright spot is the rest of the roster will be back with plenty of varsity experience from this season. Some of them even have multiple years of varsity experience already.
“You look at our bench, sophomores, we’ve got a freshman playing and another freshman on the bench,” Imdieke said. “We’re pretty young and we like what we have in our younger youth development programs right now. The cabinets are not bare by any means in Breckenridge for the Cowgirl basketball program.”
Leading the way for the squad next season will be Conzemius and Jude Held. Conzemius broke a 41-year-old record for rebounds in a season this year and Held was the team’s leading scorer.
“That describes (Conzemius’) work ethic. That (record) wasn’t given to her, she earned that. She sets the tone for the rest of them,” Imdieke said. “Jude and Grace as seniors next year, their leadership will be very valuable. I look forward to it.”
Breckenridge ends their season with a record of 15-12. Along with Conzemius breaking a longtime record, other highlights for the season include a seven-game winning streak and the first win over rival Wahpeton since 2012.
“It was a fun ride. We had a good time this year. It’s a fun group of girls,” Imdieke said. “They love being around each other and as a coach, that makes your job a lot easier. That’s a kudos to the parents and the community they get brought up in. We’re going to work hard and continue to get better. I’m looking forward to it.”