Nelson County makes defensive statement with 39-31 win over May-Port-C-G

John B. Crane
Devils Lake Journal

MCVILLE – The Nelson County Chargers Girls Basketball team had bigger aspirations than tallying a season-opening win Tuesday evening. It even went beyond their hope of extending their five-game winning streak at McVille (dating back to Jan. 23, 2021).  

To put it simply, the Chargers had a score to settle. The beef involved their opponent in the May-Port-C-G Patriots on Nov. 30. A closely contested 48-43 loss to the Patriots on Jan. 2 was only the tip of the iceberg. The echoing cheers from the opposing locker room after the defeat made everything sting that much harder. That is if a sting was synonymous with getting slammed by a sledgehammer, of course. 

“We did talk about that in practice a little bit,” Nelson County head coach Gus Kueber said. “The girls remembered this from last year. That was one of our worst losses of the year last year, and we remember being in the locker room and hearing Mayville celebrating, and, myself included, you get that knot in your stomach where it really doesn’t feel good. I made sure the girls...just remember that feeling they gave you last year. They were motivated by this. It helps me get home as well, but they were motivated, and they wanted this game.” 

Senior guard Paytan Lippert (left) attempts to make a pass.

It did not take long for the motivation to show itself as Nelson County (1-0) came away with the 39-31 payback win against May-Port-C-G (1-1) Tuesday evening. 

With the win, the Chargers opened their season with a victory for the second campaign in a row since the co-op merger between Lakota and Dakota Prairie (the Chargers started their inaugural 2020-21 season 2-0). The win extends Nelson County’s home winning streak at McVille to six, dating back to Jan. 23, 2021 (including tournament play). 

“All around great team effort,” Kueber said. “I know when people talk about Nelson County, they always talk about such a balanced team. There is no real star-studded player on the team by any means. The girls talked about it down there again. They said, nope, nobody scored 20 points. We didn’t care who scored the points out there. All that matters is this team’s success to us, and it showed again today.” 

This balance quickly revealed itself midway through the first quarter as the Chargers utilized a collection of guard and forward play to move the ball and pressure the opposing offensive front. After the Chargers propelled forward with an 11-5 lead, they leaned on senior guard Marit Ellingson and sophomore forward Sydnee Johnston. 

Senior guard Marit Ellingson winds up to shoot a free throw.

However, it was Ellingson who stole the show early and often. Although she did not nail her first three-pointer until the second quarter, the senior did anything and everything on the offensive end. This included making free throws and transitioning on the fast break. 

Ellingson, who was recently cleared to play after a finger injury sidelined her through the latter end of the volleyball season, was proud to help her teammates out in any way she could, whether it be driving to the basket or positioning in the corner waiting for a pass. 

“It is great,” senior Marit Ellingson said. “Basketball is one of my first loves as a kid, so I was really devastated to end my volleyball season like that. But coming back for basketball season was really exciting, and I was really happy to get back out there and be with my teammates again.” 

As the minutes began to wane, the necessity for the Patriots to make a play in the post only heightened. Sophomore forward Rylee Satrom, in particular, gave the Chargers a hefty run for their money to the point that a 30-25 lead diminished to a 32-31 lead with two-plus minutes left on the clock.  

No sweat for the Chargers, however. After they cleaned up their offensive and defensive rebounding just enough from earlier in the contest, it was Nelson County who pulled away with the 39-31 defensive win once the buzzer sounded one final time. 

“We took care of the basketball, especially in that fourth quarter, and I feel like we were stuck on 30 points for the longest time,” Kueber said. “What we talked to the girls about too is it is really difficult to win a game when you only score 39 points, and it is even harder to hold a team to 31 points. We took a lot of pride in our defense today and going into this game, we know they [May-Port-C-G] knocked off Barnes County North, 66-6, and we knew it was going to be a battle. Then, we looked and saw they were receiving votes in the polls and in the top 15-16 in the entire state, and we knew we were going to have our hands full, and the girls were up for the challenge today.” 

Nelson County will now look toward the Lake Region Invitational in Devils Lake with positive momentum, a marquee win, and a plentiful dose of vengeance under their belts. 

“It is huge,” Ellingson said. “We saw that May-Port is ranked in the state, and last year we had a really close loss to them. So, you really want to start the season with a bang with how many seniors we have. It is really important for us to get this win, and I think it will give us a lot of confidence moving forward.” 

The Chargers will officially battle against Devils Lake JV in the opening round of the Lake Region Invitational at 4:30 p.m. CT on Dec. 2.