Langdon/Edmore/Munich survives late-game scare, beats Benson County, 42-41

John B. Crane
Devils Lake Journal

MUNICH – Through the early portion of the 2021-22 girls basketball season, the Benson County Wildcats and Langdon/Edmore/Munich Cardinals have mostly had things go their way. Heading into their head-to-head matchup on Dec. 13, both teams ranked in the upper half of their respective districts (Benson County ranked third in District 7 while Langdon/Edmore/Munich ranked first in District 8). 

Sophomore guard Jalynn Swanson (left, white) attempts to make a pass while being guarded by senior guard/forward Quinn Neppl (right, blue).

Enough said. 

However, the Cardinals were not as fortunate in terms of roster health. Sophomore guard Jaya Henderson was unable to play (injury) in the Dec. 13 match against the Wildcats. 

The Cardinals had a problem in need of solving. Although senior forward Morgan Freije would collect her fair share of buckets, who would be the secondary and supplementary options behind her? Under normal circumstances, it would be Henderson. That was certainly the case during the team’s previous week of action as Henderson scored 13 points and 11 points, respectively, in each of her team’s two games against Nelson County and Midway/Minto. 

Luckily for the Cardinals, the supporting staff behind Freije pitched in and held off the Wildcats, 42-41, Monday evening. 

Senior guard Marlee Hetletved (left, white) dribbles next to senior guard McKenna Tofsrud (right, blue).

The Cardinals remain undefeated with the win (4-0). Dating back to the 2018-19 season, the Cardinals have won three out of four games against the Wildcats. 

A 10-7 first quarter was only the prologue of what turned into a fast-paced track meet of a game. While Benson County’s scoring phenom in Quinn Neppl found herself with a slew of steals and buckets to her name by the end of the first half, it was the combination of Freije, Whitney Pankratz, Halle Jabs, Jalynn Swanson and Meredith Romfo. The quintet combined for eight field goals during the second quarter. 

A 16-point deficit seemingly might have been enough of a cushion to quell any Wildcat counterattack. 

One would have assumed, and one would have been wrong

In actuality, a two-pronged Benson County offensive formation led by Neppl and Desidy Schwanke turned the tables just enough to pull the Wildcats within six points. During the third quarter, the Wildcats outscored the Cardinals, 15-5. 

“I honestly thought that in the third quarter, our intensity wasn’t as high as theirs was,” Langdon/Edmore/Munich assistant coach Morgan Titus said after the game. “We told the girls, this was a region game. They [Benson County] are not going to just lay over and let you take the wins. We weren’t really scoring on offense. We had some sloppy passes here and there, but we told them they need to lock in right now...they are a good team [and] they are going to score too. It is all about how we adapt to the situation.” 

After the previous three quarters involved a fast-paced style both on the offensive and defensive end of the floor, the Cardinals slowed the game down and picked up a collection of timely inbound steals and rebounds off the offensive glass to make it a game at the free-throw line. 

Although the Cardinals continued to brick free throw after free throw, Swanson set the tone early. A timely layup early through the fourth quarter after a pair of offensive rebounds from Freije helped emphasize clock management. 

Without Henderson at the helm, it was up to another player to step up. To Titus, Swanson fit the bill, as did a posse of players around her. 

Senior guard/forward Desidy Schwanke (left, blue) and sophomore guard Jalynn Swanson (right, white) dive for the ball.

“I think Jalynn [Swanson] stepped up immensely, especially in that second quarter," Titus said. "Her scoring, and when she had that mismatch, we found her and her finishing her layups were huge for us. I would say [Morgan] Freije in that first half as well, scoring over girls when she had two girls on her. That was good for us as well. I thought Halle Jabs did a good job. I tell her [that] whenever you are open in that 15-foot spot, you are shooting that ball. She does a good job and goes in every time.” 

To Swanson, it was all about sticking to the philosophy of maintaining pressure on both ends of the floor. 

“We had the leads,” sophomore guard Jalynn Swanson said after the game. “We just needed to slow it down and play good defense. We always do and stay true to our principles.” 

Second-chance opportunities helped keep the Wildcats within reach of the Cardinals. A fast-break layup from Neppl helped kindle enough of a spark to find her team within two with less than a minute remaining. However, Benson County could not find the match-tying play as Freije picked off a wide inbound pass with two seconds left in regulation. 

While his team came up on the wrong end of the win-loss column, Benson County head coach Kent Neppl believes his team has the right idea. Now, it is about playing a complete game from start to finish. 

“We have to figure things out in the first half,” Neppl said after the game. “We can’t wait until the second half. You can’t fall down by 16 points at halftime…that is a big hole to dig out of, and the girls in that third quarter recognized that if we can get a few stops…one stop, one bucket. Trying to stop and get a couple, and we did. We did what we had to do.” 

The Cardinals overcame a late push to stay ahead of the curve through resilience, grit, and just enough depth. 

Should they wish to keep the status quo in their favor, Langdon/Edmore/Munich will need to adjust accordingly to the competition around them. 

“It helps us know that we know what we can do because we can have a lot of things to work on and do better for when we play them next time,” Swanson said.