Girls Basketball: Z-M tests Hayfield, falls just short
ZUMBROTA — This is a season of new for Zumbrota-Mazeppa. There's a new coach, in Andy Bromeling, and a new system that Bromeling has installed. The Cougars are now an up-tempo team that likes to shoot a lot of 3-pointers when they're not zipping to the rim off the fast break.
Now, with the holidays in the past, and the halfway point of the season coming up, Z-M should be rounding into form for the stretch run.
On Friday, the Cougars had a great opportunity to show where they are in the process, and they largely passed the test, even in a 60-52 loss to Hayfield that drops Z-M to 8-4 on the season.
"I like where we're at," Bromeling said. "We've lost to four teams and they've all been ranked, so we can't really complain."
And "ranked" convey the kind of teams that have handed them losses. The Cougars have lost to Class AA's No. 12 team, Stewartville, and three of Class A's best in No. 1 Lyle/Pacelli, No. 2 Goodhue and the No. 5 Vikings. All this while getting the girls to adjust to a tempo that has them running and playing fast, and integrating a post player in Lauren Miller that dominated two years ago before an ACL injury.
But the team has embraced the new style, and it has started to pay off, including a first half showing against Hayfield that had Z-M down just two at halftime.
"I'm having a lot of fun this season, and I think the team is as well," said Cougar guard Lyndsey Quam, who finished with 10 points. "It's just a different pace, which, personally, I really like. And Andy has a lot of confidence in us which makes it easy to go out and play. Every team makes mistakes, but he believes in us."
Miller, who was the focal point of the offense before tearing a knee ligament and missing her junior season, has fit in well, using her 6-foot-3 frame to pull down rebounds and block shots, but also run the floor with the offense.
"We worked hard over the summer and it's all coming together," Miller said after tying Ali Hunstad for a team-high 11 points. "The girls are having fun."
On Friday, Z-M was in a 13-4 hole and in danger of the game slipping away. But the Cougars came out of a timeout with nine-straight points, including five from Hunstad, to tie the game. Hayfield's lead did not pass four until the 13-minute, 9-second mark of the second half when the Vikings went on a 9-0 run to take a 45-34 lead. The Vikings then made it 53-41 at 7:01, then tried to stall out the rest of the clock after a few scoreless possessions.
But, again, Z-M buckled down, forcing turnovers and foul shots to climb back to an eight-point game with 2:44 to play.
Alas, the Vikings held on by hitting from the free-throw line over the final half-minute, but the Cougars made it be known that their going to be a tough out, even to the top teams.
"The kids love it, they don't tell me anything different," Bromeling said. "They embrace it ... It's hard to play fast and smart and when you play good teams, they can stop that. They flustered us a bit, but to lose by eight to a team like that? There's a lot of positives to take from that."
Z-M will stay at home its next two games with St. Charles making a visit on Monday, and Triton coming in on Tuesday. Then it's on the road and to another ranked foe in No. 15 Rochester Lourdes on Friday, Jan. 12.