MLC women top V-Hawks

NEW ULM – Second-half adjustments aided Martin Luther College in overcoming a nine-point halftime deficit to beat Viterbo 77-72 in its home opener on Thursday.

The Knights (1-3) earned their first win of the season thanks to an 8-2 run from the 2:24 mark, during which senior forward Rebecca Engelbrecht put the game away with two free throws after giving them the lead with an inbounds pass converted for a layup with 50.2 seconds to go.

Engelbrecht went 2-for-3 during that final stretch and finished with 18 points overall as well as team highs in both rebounds (eight) and blocks (two).

“It’s only her second year playing basketball for us, but she’s got that leadership and she’s really grown into that role,” said MLC coach Larry Czer. “I thought she had some great decision-making down that stretch. Her kickouts were there, she made some good, aggressive post moves, she attacked the basket when she needed to attack the basket and I thought that was really impressive.”

Engelbrecht was complemented by junior guard Alex Anthon, who gave MLC a 75-72 lead after drawing a foul with 22.3 remaining. Anthon led the Knights in scoring with 29 points – 20 of which came in the second half – with a 9-for-9 stand at the free-throw line.

“With Brittney [Gossen] out, I think there’s a leadership position up for grabs and Alex and I are the other captains, so I think we can lead the team,” Engelbrecht said. “Obviously it’s more about the team focus than it is about the players, but sometimes players have to step up and take that.”

Even though Anthon’s 20 second-half points guided the Knights to victory, Jenna Engh’s 20 first-half points led the V-Hawks (1-5) to a 34-25 lead at halftime.

The defensive adjustments implemented in the second half by Czer and his staff helped slow down Engh, who went 3-for-10 in the second half en route to finishing with a game-high 34 points.

“If we’d have left her out there, we probably would have been down more than we were,” Engelbrecht said of Engh. “We wouldn’t have been able to have come back as we did.”

The Knights’ aggressiveness coming out of halftime was also crucial for the comeback as they utilized a 15-7 run to pull to within one point before Engelbrecht’s putback on her own missed shot gave them their first lead since 10:23 in the first half – a span of 15:58 within regulation.

“We came out with a lot of fire and we came out with confidence,” Engelbrecht said.

Sophomore guard Erin Schmeling added 11 points from 4-for-8 shooting, while Hannah Hackbarth had eight points with a team-high four assists.

MLC returns to action on Dec. 3, when it will face Buena Vista in Storm Lake, Iowa.

Viterbo 34 38 – 72

MLC 25 52 – 77

Leading scorers

Viterbo – Jenna Engh 12-32, 7-8 FT, 34 pts. Lauren Busse 7-12, 15 pts. Whitney Hanson 3-4, 6 pts. Hailey Koch 2-2, 5 pts.

MLC – Alex Anthon 9-12, 9-9 FT, 29 pts. Rebecca Engelbrecht 7-9, 4-7 FT, 18 pts. Erin Schmeling 4-8, 2-3 FT, 11 pts. Hannah Hackbarth 3-13, 8 pts.

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