Driven to win: Lyle-Pacelli girls are ready for a showdown

Published 7:54 pm Tuesday, February 6, 2018

LYLE — The Lyle-Pacelli girls basketball team has done a lot of winning over the past four seasons, but the No. 1 Athletics are still searching for the most important win — a state title.

Ever since LP senior Brooke Walter was brought up to the varsity squad as a seventh grader, the Athletics have racked up a record of 141-22 overall and LP has won 90 straight Southeast Conference games. But LP has played in just one Minnesota Class A state tournament over that stretch and that came in 2015 when the Athletics took fourth place.

Walter and LP senior Kendal Truckenmiller were on that team and they’re driven to get LP back in contention again as the Athletics have just four games remaining in the regular season.

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Kendal and I have experienced state and we know what to expect and we know what to do to get it done,” Walter said. “We’re all really ready and we’re really focused. For us seniors this is our last shot and we know that every day forward we need to cherish every moment and every possession of the game.”

Lyle-Pacelli’s Kendal Truckenmiller looks to pass in the first half against Randolph at Pacelli. Herald File Photo

A big reason why LP hasn’t been to a lot of state tournament is Goodhue, which will be coming to play the Athletics in Lyle Saturday at 3 p.m. The Wildcats (17-5 overall) have won back-to-back Class A state titles and they’re expected to be in the thick of things again when the Section 1A tournament rolls around.

LP already has some big wins this season, but senior center Kristi Fett has had her eyes on this showdown before the season began.

“I’ve had this game in my head ever since I found out what day it was and it was like that last year too,” Fett said. “It’s a rival game and this place will be packed. I wasn’t a part of a state tournament, but when you have the house packed in a big game it makes me feel like it is a state tournament game, because it’s state tournament-style play.”

Fett and Walter, who both have scored over 1,000 career points, have both been key factors this season the Athletics (21-1 overall). Fett has been dominant in the paint as a scorer and defender and Walter has been a top flight defender and a pass happy point guard.

As she’s become more of a passer, Abby Bollingberg and Olivia Christianson have stepped up as scorers for LP.

“This year has been super fun. Playing a big role is a lot more fun,” Bollingberg said. “When Brooke drives in sometimes she’s looking to score but mostly she’s looking to kick out to one of her teammates or get it inside to Kristi. It’s really nice that we can get our shots up because she’s always looking to pass.”

LP has been a versatile team this season that can hurt opponents in a variety of way. Christianson has been effective on both sides of the court.

“Whoever’s hot, they lead the team that night and we’ve had different leaders every night. If someone’s playing really well, we keep rolling with them,” Christianson said. “We have three seniors and they all impact the game a lot. This is our last hurrah with them. Every lose ball, every rebound, everything we give is for them.”

Lyle-Pacelli’s Brooke Walter fends off Randolph’s Alyssa Whitson in Pacelli. Herald File Photo

Fett pointed out that Walter has looked more care-free this season and that has taken the pressure of LP. Walter has played without feeling the pressure of the scoring load, but she’s ready to begin shooting again if becomes necessary.

“I think it’s fun [to be passer]. I go into games without any worry and I know my teammates can get the job done. They can do their thing and there’s really no pressure. It’s fun to watch them,” Walter said. “During playoffs you have to be focused every play and if you get an open shot you have to knock it down. I’m ready for that. I know that they’ll be doubling and tripling Kristi and I don’t have any worries.”

Saturday’s matchup could mean a lot in the Section 1A seedings as whoever wins may have an easier path to the Section 1A title game. The game has a bit of a playoff feel for the Athletics as they focus on putting together one last run.

“I’m really excited for Saturday, I think we just have to come out and play our game,” Truckenmiller said. “It’s hard knowing it’s your last year, but you’ve got to come out and try to go as far as you can go.”

LP will host Southland on Thursday in Lyle at 7:30 p.m. before the showdown against Goodhue.

Lyle-Pacelli’s Kristi Fett shoots in Hayfield. Herald File Photo