Area Girls Basketball: Rangers open second half big to tame Rebels

The Crosby-Ironton Rangers hosted the Moose Lake-Willow River Rebels in a Section 7-2A clash.

Rangers guard Tori Oehrlein shoots against Moose Lake-Willow River Tuesday, Feb. 9, at Crosby-Ironton High School. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

CROSBY — Even as a seventh grader, Tori Oehrlein quickly earned the trust and respect of her older Crosby-Ironton teammates.

Oehrlein was inserted into the starting point guard role after last year’s Brainerd Dispatch Player of the Year Lily Peterson went down with an injury. While one can only speculate how good the Rangers would be with both Peterson and Oehrlein on the court, C-I is still undefeated with just one of those players and improved to 7-0 Tuesday, Feb. 9, with an 87-74 victory over the Moose Lake-Willow River Rebels.

“When Lily went down, we weren’t sure what the lineup was going to be,” senior Jacey Rydberg said. “We weren’t sure about Tori. We knew she worked hard over the summer, but she really showed up when we had some summer and fall games. She really proved she was ready to take that lead. It’s good because she’s really good at looking for us down at the end of the court and she keeps her eyes open and she will get that pass to you.”


Oehrlein led the Rangers with 32 points, 16 rebounds, five assists, four steals and a block. She also helped C-I overcome first-half turnover issues and established a quick start to the second half.

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“That run was super important because even though we were ahead at the half by nine points, it felt like we were behind,” C-I head coach Pete Vukelich said. “We needed to get out and regain control of this game. The halftime adjustments we made it seemed like we initially stuck with them. Then as the game went on we kind of went back to our old ways which was frustrating. But a win is a win.”

With C-I leading 39-30 at the break, the Rangers erupted with seven straight points from three different players. C-I built a 50-37 edge on an Oehrlein putback followed by back-to-back field goals from Kalli Papenfuss and Jacey Rydberg to force a Rebel timeout.

The Rebels’ only answer Tuesday night was Natalie Mikrot and she was a good answer. The junior point guard finished with a game-high 41 points, but the rest of the MLWR managed just 33 points.

“She scored off the dribble and it seems like she watches a lot of NBA as she was really good with the head fake and the crossover,” Vukelich said. “There are a lot of good players in our section. We know girls are going to get theirs, but we have to have better help-side defense. Defensively, this was probably our worst game of the season. It’s crazy to say since we won, but all-in-all we have to play better team defense.”

Mikrot scored 12 of the Rebels’ first 14 points of the second half and hit consecutive 3-pointers during a barrage of 3s from MLWR that cut C-I’s lead to 70-60. That was during a point where Oehrlein was sitting on the bench with four fouls. The seventh grader quickly hit the court again and calmed the tempo for C-I.

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Oehrlein, who scored 16 points in each half, scored six of C-I’s last seven points to remain undefeated.

In this year’s section tournament, the top-seeded team will get home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.


The Rangers were leading the Section 7-2A standings until both Duluth Marshall and Esko leapfrogged them. The Hilltoppers, with an 8-1 overall record, are the No. 1 ranked Class 2A team according to the Quality Results Formula.

Esko is No. 4 while C-I is No. 8 in the QRF. Both C-I and Esko have unbeaten records.

“It’s one of those wins where it doesn’t look great on paper, but 7-0 that brings us to 5-0 in the section and that’s so important when home court is king, especially during playoff basketball. Every game is important.”

C-I committed 11 first-half turnovers and trailed 20-17 before Oehrlein hit her first 3-pointer. A Rydberg putback followed by a Nixon lay in and another Oehrlein 3 handed C-I a 27-22 lead late in the half. Rydberg scored again followed by a Kalli Papenfuss free throw and another Oehrlein 3 built C-I’s lead to 35-26 and the Rangers went into the half with the same nine-point edge at 39-30.

“We were pushing it a little bit,” Rydberg said. “We were kind of forcing it. Coach said something was open and I threw it there the next play, but it wasn’t the right choice. I was a play behind.

“We don’t want to play like the team we’re playing against. We want to play our best each and every game. That’s kind of what we did in that first half. We struggled in the first half. The second half was much better. We started to play our game.”

C-I dominated the paint as Rydberg, Mya Decent and Josie Schaefer combined for 34 points in the lane. Decent and Papenfuss both finished with seven rebounds and Decent led the Rangers with six assists and four steals. Karie Nixon added eight points and five assists.


Moose Lake-WR 30 44 -- 74
Crosby-Ironton 30 47 -- 87

Grace Stephenson 3, Natalie Mikrot 41, Alivia Mallory 5, Monica Mikrot 3, Ella Rhodes 3, Emily Bohnsack 8. FG 28-64 (44%), FT 8-11 (72%). 3-point 10-29 (34%).

Karlie Nixon 8, Jacey Rydberg 19, Mya Decent 9, Kalli Papenfuss 8, Ellen Silgen 5, Josie Schaefer 6, Tori Oehrlein 32.. FG35-69 (51%), FT 12-16 (75%). 3-point 4-12 (33%).

JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at 218-855-5856 or Follow on Twitter at


Crosby-Ironton 87, MLWR 74

Key: A quick start to the second half propelled the Rangers

Overall: C-I 7-0, MLWR 2-5

Next: Crosby-Ironton at Pequot Lakes 7:15 p.m. Friday, Feb. 12

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