Powered by freshmen, Sacred Heart beats previously unbeaten Fosston

Jan. 11—EAST GRAND FORKS — The future is now for the East Grand Forks Sacred Heart girls basketball program.

The Eagles, who won two games in the first year of coach Mike Mathison's three-year stint as head coach, picked up a statement win Thursday night by handling previously unbeaten Fosston 54-45 in the Sacred Heart gym.

Sacred Heart, which features four freshmen in the starting lineup, improved to 11-1 to sit at the top of the Minnesota Section 8A standings according to QRF rankings.

"The girls put in an unbelievable amount of work over the summer," said Mathison, a former UND basketball player. "It was a tough couple of years and they want it. They've seen the success of the boys program and the excitement that can come with that. They're motivated. A win like tonight gets the girls excited, but it doesn't get easier. A win tonight proves we're in the mix, but we're going to get the best from every team moving forward."

Fosston and Sacred Heart were tight the entire first half with neither team leading by more than four points and the Eagles holding a 24-22 advantage at halftime.

Sacred Heart jumped out fast to start the second half, scoring the first eight points behind back-to-back old-fashion three-point plays from freshman Lydia Riskey, who ended with 17 points.

Eagles freshman post Lexi Lawrence also started the second half strong. With six quick second-half points, Sacred Heart led 36-27 with 13 minutes, 15 seconds left.

Lawrence, who finished with a game-high 19 points, has deep basketball bloodlines. She's the daughter of former UND basketball player Sam Brekke, granddaughter of former UND basketball player Steve Brekke, niece of former UND basketball player Brandon Brekke and the cousin of former UND basketball player Chelsey Frydenlund, whose mom Durene (Heisler) Frydenlund is one of North Dakota's all-time high school greats.

When Fosston started to double-team Lawrence inside, the Greyhounds made a run. Brynlea Mahlen's left-handed scoop in the lane cut Sacred Heart's lead to 39-36 with 7:45 to play.

Sacred Heart's key answer came from the team's lone senior in Isabel Vonesh, who drilled a 3-pointer — the only 3-pointer hit by either team in the game — to bump the lead back out to 44-38 with 5:47 to play.

"We're a young team with one senior, and it's her last year, so we want to make sure it's a good one," Lawrence said.

That Vonesh 3-pointer was the last shot from the field the Eagles needed in a physical game that saw plenty of trips to the foul line.

The Eagles made enough free throws down the stretch to hold off Fosston's comeback efforts. Sacred Heart finished 25-for-30 from the free-throw line.

The Greyhounds, who hadn't given up more than 37 points in a game or scored fewer than 51 all season, were led by Brynlea Mahlen's 16 points and 14 points from Lexi Mahlen, who fouled out with 3:09 left in the game after playing the previous 7 minutes with four fouls.

"We got in foul trouble, which hurt us," Fosston coach Kelly Viken said. "They got to the free-throw line a lot, and they hit a high percentage. We didn't shoot well from the field today. We never had one 3-pointer today, and we typically get five to eight per game. Give them credit. They took stuff away from us and were contesting our shots."