Senior Mackenzie Kmecik (4) takes a shot during a game against UMD on Nov. 4, 2019
During every playoff run, you see an unlikely hero. Whether it’s one basket, a blocked shot, or a career night, every year someone new steps up to spur a team to victory. That’s exactly what happened for the ‘Jackets women’s basketball team on the night of Wednesday, Feb. 26 in the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference (UMAC) semifinals against Northwestern. The likes of Reinertsen, Ruiz, and Carpenter were their normal selves, but they were all upstaged by the career night of Mackenzie Kmecik (Superior, Wis./Superior Senior).
Kmecik, a senior who played her prep ball up the street at Superior High School, came into the night averaging 1.85 points per game for her career. Wednesday she dropped in a career-high 23 points, leading all scorers as the Yellowjackets advanced to the UMAC Championship game with a 90-83 victory over Northwestern at Mertz Mortorelli Gym.
The Yellowjackets built up a 17-5 lead by the halfway point of the first quarter, and led 20-10 by the end of the first. The teams traded punches in the second quarter, but the ‘Jackets pulled away late. Kmecik drained a three with under two minutes to go to make it a 15-point Yellowjacket lead, and later Kaelyn Christian (St. Michael, Minn./St. Michael-Albertville Senior) hit a three to give the Yellowjackets a 43-27 advantage at the break.
Northwestern flipped the script in the third, going on a three-point binge and quickly erasing the lead. The ‘Jackets saw their lead reduced to just six, 61-55, by the end of the third quarter.
The threes continued for the Eagles into the fourth, and they took the lead, 63-61, a minute into the fourth. The teams traded points, and the lead, multiple times in the quarter, but when the ‘Jackets needed someone to come up big, Kmecik did. She made a pair of free throws with 5:51 to play to put the Yellowjackets up 66-64. She hit a jumper with 3:24 to go to make it a two-possession game, 74-69.
Northwestern managed to get within one, but never retook the lead. It was only fitting that Kmecik closed out the scoring with four free throws and grabbed the games final board.
Reinertsen also established a new school record for games played (109) and moved into third place on the all-time scoring list (1,314 points).
The Yellowjackets will play at Bethany Lutheran Saturday, Feb. 29. The opening tip from North Gymnasium is set for 7:30 p.m. This will mark the seventh straight season the Yellowjackets (16-10) have reached the conference championship game. It’s the third year in a row the Yellowjackets will meet Bethany Lutheran, who escaped a second-half surge from Minnesota Morris to reach the final.