MINDEN, Neb. — The stage was set.
The parking lots were overflowing. The ticket lines were long. And the capacity crowd of 1,500 who arrived at C.L. Jones Gym in Minden packed their way in to the bleachers to see a battle between two of the state's best — unbeaten Minden and one-loss Holdrege.
Amidst the state tournament-like atmosphere, it was Minden, yet again, shining brightest.
The Whippets used a lockdown defensive effort Friday and dominated much of the game en route to a 63-48 win that was only that close because of a frenetic last-gasp comeback attempt from the Dusters.
Minden's success started in the post where D-I bound Jamie Kissinger battled Holdrege's Rachel Jelden.
Kissinger, along with the rest of her team, had the upper hand all night. The Whippets held the 6-foot-1 Jelden, who averages 14.4 points per game, to seven points — all from the free-throw line.
“Jamie is a fighter,” Minden coach Rick Chramosta said. “When you lay that challenge out in front of her, she's going to do everything she can to get the job done. It didn't surprise me, to be honest with you. Rachel is a heck of a ballplayer, give her a lot of credit, but Jamie made it difficult for her.”
Added Kissinger: “(Jelden) is really strong, but I knew that I had to do my best on her. I just had to try my hardest and fight to get around.”
And whatever rhythm Holdrege tried to establish offensively, particularly in the first half, Minden would have none of it. Playing man-to-man, the Whippets forced the Dusters in to turnovers on 14 of their 30 possessions in the first half.
Minden also did enough on the offensive side to slowly build an insurmountable lead. A 10-2 run spanning the first and second quarters opened a 23-10 lead, and the lead never got below 10 the rest of the game.
The margin grew to 25 points in the third quarter.
“Our girls brought their defensive shoes with them today,” Chramosta said. “There's no question.”
Holdrege's only two losses are at the hands of the 17-0 Whippets.
And Holdrege coach BJ Blase said Minden has taken Holdrege out of its game, particularly with the turnovers. In the two contests, Holdrege has combined for 41 turnovers.
“Turnovers really haven't been a weakness for us all year and these two games against that caliber, we have to be ready to be able to hold on to the ball,” Blase said.
Blase added that his team's static offense didn't help matters.
“Everything that we knew they were going to do, we had practiced and we just didn't do it,” Blase said.
The scoring contributions for Minden on Friday came from all over. Brooke Kissinger led the team with 15 points, all of them coming in the second half. Becca Stewart scored 12 points and grabbed seven rebounds, while Jamie Kissinger scored 11 and had eight boards. Freshman Taylor Kissinger added 12 points.
Holdrege was led by Julianna Burr with 17 points.
But in the electric atmostphere in Minden, it was the Whippets who made the biggest statement.
“Any time you can beat Holdrege, you know you're beating a solid basketball team,” Chramosta said.
Minden (17-0) .......................................... 15 18 16 14—63
Holdrege (11-2) .......................................... 9 6 11 22—48
M: Brooke Kissinger 4-11 6-6 15, Becca Stewart 4-5 4-5 12, Taylor Kissinger 4-13 1-2 12, Jamie Kissinger 3-15 5-5 11, Jenna Denney 3-5 0-0 7 Addi Woodward 2-2 0-0 4, Ali Rowse 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 21-52 16-18 63.
H: Julianna Burr 6-12 3-6 17, Jamie Isaacson 3-6 2-4 10, Jenna Gillespie 4-8 0-0 10, Rachel Jelden 0-6 7-13 7, Ashley Alber 1-1 0-0 2, Haley Schroeder 0-0 2-2 2, Kimberly Jurado 0-1 0-0 0, Celeena Holt 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 14-35 14-25 48.
3-point goals: MIN 5-17 (T. Kissinger 3-5, Denney 1-2, B. Kissinger 1-3, J. Kissinger 0-7), HOL 6-10 (Isaacson 2-2, Gillespie 2-4, Burr 2-4). Rebounds: MIN 26 (J. Kissinger 8), HOL 32 (Jelden 10). Assists: MIN 7 (B. Kissinger 2, J. Kissinger 2, T. Kissinger 2), HOL 7 (Gillespie 2, Schroeder 2). Turnovers: MIN 8, HOL 20. Steals: MIN 5 (B. Kissinger 3), HOL 3 (Gillespie 2). Fouls: MIN 20, HOL 16. Fouled out: MIN (Rowse).