BREESE — Embroiled in another Clinton County shootout with city rival Central on Monday night, Mater Dei coach Dave Kohnen had just one request of his team at halftime.
All Kohnen wanted was 16 solid minutes of basketball.
Senior Emily Koelling scored 11 of her 19 points in the second half to help give the Knights the lead and Anna Lampe hit 11 of 12 free throw attempts in the final 1:26 of the fourth quarter to ice a 54-43 Mater Dei win before a large crowd at Central High School.
The top-ranked Class 2A team in the state and the 2011 state tournament runnerup, Central (7-1) scored the final seven points on the first half -- the last basket coming on a 3-point shot by junior Maddie Timmermann -- to tie the score at 21.
Kohnen, keeping his poise at halftime, then issued the simple request.
"I just asked them for 16 solid minutes in the second half. Not 14, but 16. I thought we got a little lax in the last two minutes of the second quarter," Kohnen said. "The second half we came out and played very well.
"I told one of the officials as they ran off the court that there were two great defensive basketball teams out here tonight. We got them this time. Next time? Who knows?''
Lampe led the Knights (6-0) with 22 points while Koelling, a 6-0 senior added 19. Koelling also combined with 6-0 senior Jamie Voss to help outrebound the Cougars and contain highly-touted freshman Kendra Wilken.
Wilken scored eight points with six coming in the second half after she sat out the final 5:34 of the second quarter in foul trouble.
Unofficially, Mater Dei owned a 33-20 edge on the backboards.
"We were out of our rhythm offensively. Especially in the first half. It's just very frustrating because we just didn't execute,'' Central coach Nathan Rueter said. "We didn't take it to them.
"I talked to the girls after the game and told them we just have to go out and play our game Sure we were playing against the best big players (Voss and Koelling) that we've seen all year. But by the same token, you can't let that deter us from doing what works for us.''
The Cougars scoring run reached 10-0 in the opening minute of the second half as Wilken scored inside and Timmermann nailed a free throw as Central took a 24-21 led.
But four points each from Lampe and Koelling keyed an 8-0 Mater Dei spurt as the Knights took a 29-24 lead.
Two free throws by Central junior Taylor Rakers cut the Knights lead to 29-26 after three quarters.
Central, getting seven fourth quarter points from Timmermann, stayed closed for most of the fourth quarter.
A short jumper by Wilken cut the lead to 41-37 with 1:26 left, but it was all Lampe and the Knights the rest of the way. Lampe nailed eight straight free throws during the final spurt.
"Honestly, I feel good with a lot of our kids at the foul line. But having Anna there, I liked our chances,'' Kohnen said. "This is a big game that of course you want to win. But everybody knows that it its all about working, getting better and getting ready to play your best basketball in the postseason.''