Sweet 16

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 22, 2006

By Jeff Budlong , Tribune Sports Editor

NEW RICHLAND &045; The suspense built for nearly 35 minutes.

The big question heading into the final minute of the game between New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva and United South Central wasn’t who was going to win the game, but would Panther senior Traci Nelson get the two points she needed to reach 1,000 in her career in front of the home fans?

Nelson stepped to the free throw line after the Rebels were whistled for a technical foul for having too many players on the court and calmly hit the two shots giving her 16 on the night and

1,000 in her stellar career.

The milestone was an accomplishment Nelson was happy to have, but it would be hard to tell judging by her reaction.

There was no celebrating by Nelson who simply walked back to her

teammates who were waiting to congratulate her.

&8220;It was going to happen when it happened and it really didn’t matter to me when it happened,&8221; said Nelson.

&8220;I am glad it happened and I was able to get it over and done with.&8221;

The game was stopped after the second free throw as Panther head coach Mindy Sparby and Nelson stood at midcourt so fans in the crowd could take pictures to commemorate the impressive feat.

&8220;Traci is an outstanding free throw shooter and she has been through her entire career, and she has ice water in those veins so I knew both of those shots were going down,&8221; said Sparby.

&8220;She is such a competitor and she can block anything out and just play, and that is what she did tonight…it was a great night for her.&8221;

Nelson joins teammate Alison Anderson, who reached the mark last season, in the very exclusive club at NRHEG.

&8220;I think it is really cool that we are both on the same team and are two of only three in school history to get 1,000 points,&8221; said Nelson.

While the Panthers were able to celebrate in the end the Rebels made them work for every point they got.

NRHEG started the game a little slow and USC was able to handle the defensive pressure getting out to a 17-13 lead with under seven minutes remaining in the half.

Kirsten Thisius paced the Rebels with eight first half points while Kallie Rollenhagen and Rebecca Leland each added six.

Defensively, the Rebels were able to limit Nelson to just four first half points and kept Anderson in check with nine.

However, USC would struggle all night long to find an answer for the Panthers’ Cassie Davis who sparked the team with 11 points off the bench.

Davis not only got points with her supreme effort, but she also helped the Panthers hold their own on the boards.

&8220;Cassie was just outstanding off the bench tonight giving us huge minutes,&8221; said Sparby.

With Davis’ help the Panthers took a two point lead into the locker room.

The second half would see the game remain tight on the scoreboard until NRHEG was able to put together a 8-2 run beginning at 11:04 mark.

The Panthers got ponts from Anderson, Brittany Hansen and Davis, and the defense either forced the Rebels into hurried shots or forced

turnovers.

&8220;We just really stepped it up in the second half,&8221; Sparby said, &8220;we were a little cold in the first half, but a lot of that has to do with USC and their tough defense.

&8220;Defense is where we got our spark and that has been the case all season.&8221;

That small spurt was enough to keep the Panthers at arm’s length from the Rebels the rest of the way.

Rollenhagen and Thisius were were held to just seven second half points after the duo combined

for 14 in the first half.

Rebecca Leland led the Rebels with 14 points.

The win kept the Panthers perfect in Gopher Conference play with a 6-0 mark while the Rebels suffered their first conference defeat and moved to 3-1.

&8220;This was huge tongiht because we knew USC was going to come out and fight,&8221; said Sparby.

&8220;I am just real proud of my team.&8221;

NRHEG 61, USC 48

USC &045; Rebecca Leland 14, Kallie Rollenhagen 13, Mallory Aukes 6, Kirsten Thisius 8, Lauren Schuster 5, Jill Stenzel 2

NRHEG &045;&160;Alison Anderson 13, Jasmine Brouwers 9, Traci Nelson 16, Onika Peterson 4, Brittany Hansen 8, Cassie Davis 11