Surprise senior Maren Mildestvedt makes the difference for Manitou Springs girls basketball

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The latest addition to the five-girl senior class of Manitou Springs' basketball team turned out to be a pleasant surprise.

Maren Mildestvedt, an exchange student from Norway, scored a game-high 25 points to help Manitou Springs beat Florence 57-44 in a Tri-Peaks League game that doubled as the Mustangs’ senior night.

Mildestvedt put up 15 points in the first half and had the Mustangs’ single-game scoring record of 34 in her sights.

“I need to get on that exchange program to see if I can get a couple like that,” quipped Florence coach Chad Ford. “She’s a very nice player.”

Instead of hunting the record held by Manitou Springs assistant Amelia Schofield, Mildestvedt frequently created shots for teammates as the Mustangs held off a couple of Florence surges.

“All year long, you could tell she’s on the verge of kinda taking over. She’s just a good fundamental player. She’s played a lot of basketball,” said first-year Manitou Springs coach Justin Armour.

“She gets a lot of people involved.”

Mildestvedt opened the scoring with a 3-pointer before a drive and a putback helped the Mustangs jump out to a 17-6 lead midway through the first quarter.

Florence pulled within five after Mildestvedt went to the bench to end the quarter.

She hit a pair of 3-pointers in the second to help the Mustangs to a 34-24 halftime lead.

She’s getting more comfortable as the season progresses.

“Now, I feel like I take more open shots, and I look more to score,” she said. “I feel like the shots are falling better.”

The Huskies hung tight behind senior Kim Okinedo’s presence inside. Okinedo’s bucket to open the fourth made it a six-point game with time to spare, but Mildestvedt and Mustang junior Bridget Bodor combined to score 10 of Manitou Springs’ 13 fourth-quarter points.

“We started executing a little bit better,” Ford said. “Unfortunately, a little too little, a little too late. We just couldn’t knock down some of the shots when we had the chance.”

Mildestvedt entered the game as the Mustangs’ leading scorer at 15.5 points per game, and her one year of American basketball has gotten the attention of some college coaches. She'll need to finish a 13th year of school in Norway but said a return to play collegiately is possible.

While the postseason process remains a mystery, she’s got the right idea.

“To be honest, I don’t really get the system, but I think like if we win now, then there’s like leagues and regionals,” Mildestvedt said. “I don’t know, but for sure, I want to win as many games as possible.”