Frustrated and a bit rattled, Sauk Centre players were forced to process unusual feelings at halftime.
The undefeated Mainstreeters trailed state tournament newcomer Byron by nine at halftime, then roared back for a 67-61 victory in the Class 2A quarterfinals Wednesday at Target Center.
Byron center Ayoka Lee, a 6-5 force, tormented the No. 1 - seeded Mainstreeters (31-0) throughout the first half. She scored 15 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and blocked seven shots. In the second half, Sauk Centre stepped up its vaunted transition game to beat Lee down the floor and minimize her considerable presence.
It worked. A 21-2 run by the Mainstreeters gave them a 46-36 lead.
"We knew they'd pick up the pressure in the second half," Byron coach Darren Nelson said.
The pressure led to fast breaks and quick baskets. Lee was limited to 11 points and five rebounds in the second half.
"We tried to stay confident and stick to our game," said Sauk Centre's Maseyn Thiesen, who finished with a team-high 24 points.
Byron (19-11), which entered Wednesday on a 10-game winning streak, didn't quit.
The Bears' fourth made three-pointer of the second half, by Hailey Braaten, cut their deficit to 62-59 with 1:29 to play.
From there, Sauk Centre's Tori Peschel and Thiesen went a combined five of six from the free-throw line to maintain control.
David La vaque