Staying aggressive: Nelson leads LP to a share of its sixth straight conference crown

Published 9:02 pm Monday, February 18, 2019

Lyle-Pacelli senior Lucy Nelson used to struggle with being aggressive, but after a lot of hard work and some big success this year, that’s no longer a problem for her.

Nelson took charge early in the second half to lead the Athletics to a 55-36 win over Mabel-Canton (7-19 overall, 4-11 SEC) in Pacelli Gym Monday. The win clinched a share of the SEC title for LP for the sixth straight year.

Nelson, who finished with 22 points and five rebounds, scored the first six points of the second half in the middle of a 22-0 LP surge that saw the Athletics go from down four points to up 18.

Lyle-Pacelli’s Abby Bollingberg dishes the ball off against Mabel-Canton in Pacelli Gym Monday. Rocky Hulne/

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The win was the third win in four days for LP, which was able to keep up momentum after an exhausting win at co-SEC champ Grand Meadow Friday night.

“It was kind of a blur. It just went by so fast,” Nelson said. “After Grand Meadow, we were fatigued and it was a challenge, but we find our way to win those tough games with fatigue. It really means a lot to us (to share the conference title) after losing such a good group of seniors (last year). It took awhile for us to find our way, but we eventually got there.”

The Athletics (20-4 overall, 13-1 SEC) struggled for much of the first half against the Cougars, but they took the lead for good when Abby Bollingberg hit a pair of free throws to make it 15-14 LP with 55 seconds left in the first half. Bollingberg added a three-pointer nine seconds before the half to give LP a four-point lead at the break.

The share of a conference title means a lot to the Athletics, who graduated a large chunk of their 2018 Minnesota Class A State championship team.

“We’ve stuck with each other and we’ve believed in ourselves. When things aren’t going our way, we try to pull together as much as we can,” LP head coach Anna Meyer said. “Lucy was huge tonight and that’s what she can do for us every night. She’s become pretty unstoppable down in the post. Her and Olivia really head mismatches tonight and we wanted to utilize that as much as possible.”

Lyle-Pacelli’s Olivia Christianson attacks the basket against Mabel-Canton’s Jordyn Newgard in Pacelli Gym Monday. Rocky Hulne/

Olivia Christianson piled on 13 points, eight rebounds and four steals for LP, which has now won nine games in a row. Christianson said the team has gone through its ups and downs this year, but things are clicking now, especially with Nelson in the post right next to her.

“Lucy’s a beast. I can always look to her to get the ball and go up with it and she’s always there to rebound,” Christanson said. “She does so well.”

Nelson played a reserve role on LP’s state title team last season, but when she was moved to the post and the staring lineup this season it became clear that she was going to have a much bigger role. As No. 4 seeded LP prepares to open the Section 1A tournament against No. 13 Wabasha-Kellogg in Pacelli at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nelson is now a go-to option for the Athletics.

It’s a role that she’s learned to accept.

“It’s been pretty tough. I was never the type to want to step up or put myself out there, but after losing those core seniors I knew someone had to fill into that role and I had to work my way into the offense,” Nelson said. “Getting there has been a struggle, but my teammates have helped me work through that.”

Lyle-Pacelli’s Kayla Christopherson plays defense on Mabel-Canton’s Payton Danielson in Pacelli Gym Monday. Rocky Hulne/

MC 14  22    36

LP 18  37    55

LP scoring: Lucy Nelson, 22; Olivia Christianson, 13; Abby Bollingberg, 9; Kayla Christopherson, 7; Kearah Schaefer, 2; Kayla Johnson, 2; free throws: 73 percent (16-for-22)