The Northfield High School girls basketball team snapped an 11-game losing streak with a bit of home court swagger, helping the Raiders gain a 43-34 victory over Big 9 rival Faribault on Friday, Jan. 20. The victory was the Raiders (3-11, 3-8 Big 9) first win since a 44-42 decision over Rochester John Marshall on Dec. 6 at home.
The loss for the Falcons (4-12, 3-9 Big 9) was the team’s third consecutive setback and it marked the second close loss to the Raiders in 2022-23. Earlier this season, Northfield posted a 46-41 win at Faribault on Dec. 1.
In a low scoring affair, Northfield used a bit of that “swagger” to score 13 unanswered points in the second half to help break a six-point lead owned by the Falcons with under 10 minutes left in the game.
“One word — swagger. We asked them to play with some swagger and play with some confidence. When you go on an 11-game losing streak, you start to lose that belief that we are ever going to win another game and that we can compete in this league,” Northfield coach Paul Eddy said.
Senior guard Izzy Balvin echoed those same feelings about the secret ingredient that helped Northfield secure the victory.
“Our team needed a win…it’s been a tough losing streak but we’re definitely pumped about this one tonight,” Balvin said. “Our new thing is playing with swagger….just believe that every time you shoot it’s going in. We were working super hard on defense, we were all talking and we picked up our energy. We just wanted it.”
In the most recent edition of the Faribault-Northfield rivalry, the Raiders earned an 18-14 halftime lead to start the contest. Northfield’s offense was evenly spread out with Amber Mahal and Balvin leading the team with four points apiece, while Faribault had five points from Amira Williams and three points each from Jamie Adamek and Aaliyah Reyes.
The defensive battle continued after intermission as Faribault slowly chipped away at Northfield’s lead in the early minutes of the second half. A field goal and ensuing free throw by Adamek closed the gap to 20-19 before the Falcons gained the game’s lead at 23-22 with a basket by Isabel Herda with 14:25 left in the half.
Faribault went on to push its lead to 26-23 with a trey by Adamek at the 14:00 mark and later extended the margin to 32-26 thanks to a three-pointer from Hailey Reuvers and and a field goal from Williams.
In the meantime, Northfield regrouped and began its comeback midway through the half. A pair of baskets by Ryann Eddy helped cut Faribault’s lead to 32-28 and free throws by Tatum Sawyer for Northfield at 7:29 closed Faribault’s lead to 32-30.
Northfield’s Kate Sand tied the game at 32-32 with her basket at 5:55 before a three-pointer by Balvin and baskets by Sawyer and Cora McBroom helped pad the lead for NHS. In that scoring surge for the Northfield, the Raiders posted 13 unanswered points to take a 39-32 lead with less than two minutes left in the game.
In the closing minute of play, Faribault was forced to foul with hopes of breaking Northfield’s lead but first year forward Amber Mahal calmly sealed the victory by connecting on four consecutive free throws to make the final 43-34.
“We didn’t play well and when you turn the ball over like that and only play good for eight minutes, you can’t expect to win, but give Northfield credit…they closed it out and made a little run on us, but it was definitely not our best night.,” Faribault coach Bill Bardal said.
Northfield switched gears a bit on defense during the game to play havoc with Faribault’s offense and that caused some of those turnovers.
“Defensively, we have played zone all year long just about,” Paul Eddy said. “We’ve been working a bit more on man-to-man defense. They (Faribault) carved up our zone early on and were getting wide open threes and making them, so we switched to our man-to-man defense and it was our first sustained man-to-man defense this year…and I thought we did a great job.”
He’d added, “I felt our ball screen defense was exceptional and really took away the penetration and the roll. Our perimeter players did a great job of battling over the top and making that pass really hard and it resulted in a lot of turnovers. They were trying to force it in there and thread the needle and we were able to get some turnovers off of that.”
Paul Eddy had praise for Mahal’s work at the free throw line late in the contest.
“She looked like she does everyday in practice…cool, calm and collected. You don’t get a lot of freshman that can step in there like that, but she has that swagger that I was talking about and she went to the line and nailed them. Those were huge for us,” Paul Eddy said.
The Raider coach was also impressed with his team’s ability to show well on a school day that included six final exams.
“We have a team grade point average of over 3.8…with the academic stress they were under and to come out here tonight and perform as well as they did, I am really proud of them.”
Sawyer led the NHS offense with 10 points in the game, which saw a total of seven Raiders score in the game. Balvin ranked second on the club with nine points, while Mahal finished with eight points and Eddy had seven.
Williams led Faribault with 11 points in the game, while Adamek scored eight and Reyes scored six to pace the Falcons on offense. In this close Big 9 game, Northfield was 10-of-17 from the line and Faribault was 4-of-10.
Northfield opened its week on Tuesday, Jan. 17 with a 74-49 loss at Rochester Mayo. Ryann Eddy led Northfield in scoring against Mayo with 28 points and teammate Kat Organ had 10 points.
Faribault will continue its season with a home game on Tuesday, Jan. 24 against Winona and then host league leader Rochester Mayo for a game on Friday, Jan. 27 at 7:30 p.m. The Raiders will play at Rochester John Marshall on Jan. 24 and travel to Mankato West on Friday, Jan. 27 for a 7:30 p.m. game before returning home on Tuesday, Jan. 31 for a non-conference match against Hastings on Tuesday, Jan. 31 at 7:15 p.m.