Prep Basketball

Prairie girls' basketball edges Linn-Mar from the free-throw line

Led by Hailey Cooper and McKenna Murray, Hawks make 20 of 25 in a 45-42 victory

Hailey Cooper, Cedar Rapids Prairie
Hailey Cooper, Cedar Rapids Prairie

MARION — Free throws kept Cedar Rapids Prairie in the game. And free throws ultimately won it.

Hailey Cooper and McKenna Murray led the Hawks to a 20-for-25 effort from the line, and that was the difference in their 45-42 Mississippi Valley Conference girls’ basketball win over Linn-Mar on Tuesday at Linn-Mar High School.

“This year, I have focused more with my free throws, and tonight I made them,” said Cooper, who made all eight of her charity shots, and Murray did the same.

Cooper made a pair with 2:16 left to break a 41-41 tie, then Murray added two more with 1:17 left.

“They were both really locked in,” Prairie Coach Josh Bentley said.

The Hawks (5-2, 3-1 MVC) won their third game in the last five days.

This is a different looking team from last year, when Mallory McDermott and Sidney McCrea — now at Western Illinois and Northern Illinois, respectively — led the Hawks to the state tournament. There’s still some veteran talent there to go with a strong freshman class, but that veteran talent is in a variety of different roles now.

Take Cooper, for example. A point guard growing up, she was moved to the post last year. Now she’s back to the point.

“This is fun,” she said. “It’s a fresh look. We have new pieces, and they all fit together.”

Natalie Bennett had a chance to ice it, but missed two free throws with eight seconds left. But Linn-Mar’s Hallie Peak misfired on a 3-pointer at the buzzer, and the Hawks escaped.

Cut Bennett some major slack. It was her back-to-back 3-pointers that put the Hawks in front, 41-37, midway through the fourth quarter.

“She hit two big shots,” Bentley said.

Cooper and Murray led the Hawks with 10 points apiece. Bennett added nine, Kamryn Grissel eight.

Keegan Krejca paced Linn-Mar (3-4, 2-3) with 13 points. Peak added 12 on an array of midrange shots.

“Early in the game, we were reacting too much to them instead of dictating the action,” Lions Coach Chad Tompkins said. “And we sent them to the line 25 times, and that’s too many.”

After opening the game with a scoreless spell of almost six minutes, Prairie used a 20-5 run for a 20-10 lead in the middle of the second quarter. Linn-Mar responded with a 19-2 surge for a seven-point lead, then the Hawks squared it at 31-31 at the end of the third.


At Linn-Mar

C.R. PRAIRIE (45): Kamryn Grissel 3-9 1-1 8, Hailey Cooper 1-3 8-8 10, Natalie Bennett 3-5 0-2 9, McKenna Murray 1-3 8-8 10, Catie Reittinger 1-4 2-3 5, Ryann Decker 0-0 0-0 0, Ella Nove 0-1 1-2 1, Megan Mallicoat 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 10-26 20-25 45.

LINN-MAR (42): Keegan Krejca 3-7 7-7 13, Emma Casebolt 0-2 0-0 0, Kaitlyn Brunson 1-8 2-4 5, Hallie Peak 6-10 0-0 12, Marissa Miller 1-3 0-0 2, Zoe Kennedy 2-8 1-2 5, Caelynn Obleton 2-5 0-0 5, Abby Thoms 0-0 0-0 0, Sofia Bush 0-1 0-2 0. Totals 15-44 10-15 42.

Halftime: Prairie 20, Linn-Mar 18. 3-point goals: Prairie 5-11 (Grissel 1-3, Bennett 3-5, Reittinger 1-3), Linn-Mar 2-16 (Casebolt 0-1, Brunson 1-4, Peak 0-3, Miller 0-2, Kennedy 0-4, Obleton 1-2). Team fouls: Prairie 12, Linn-Mar 17. Fouled out: none. Rebounds: Prairie 25 (Grissel, Cooper 5), Linn-Mar 24 (Kennedy 8). Assists: Prairie 6 (Cooper 2), Linn-Mar 11 (Brunson 3). Steals: Prairie 8 (Cooper, Bennett 2), Linn-Mar 12 (Brunson 5). Turnovers: Prairie 19, Linn-Mar 13.

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