The Stillwater Area High School girls basketball team got back on a winning track with a 51-36 non-conference victory at Prior Lake last Tuesday night.

The Ponies' seniors took over, scoring 39 of Stillwater's 51 total points as the Ponies cruised to a 15-point halftime lead. The second half was a little closer, but the home team couldn't close the gap and Stillwater left with a much-needed victory.

Senior forward Colleen Kopel led the Ponies with 17 points and four rebounds thanks to some impressive shooting. Kopel was 7-for-12 from the floor and a perfect 3-for-3 from the free throw line.

Another senior forward, Jessica Nichols, also turned in an excellent all-around performance. Stillwater coach Deb Van Klei said last week that she'd like to see more out of Nichols and she got her wish. Nichols joined Kopel in double figures with 13 points and she also pulled down a game-high 12 rebounds. Nichols also added four steals and she shot 50 percent from the field (5-for-10).

Senior guard Ashley Middleton and junior guard Maggie Lopac added six points apiece. Lopac added five rebounds, four assists and three steals to fill up her stat line.

Sophomore Alyssa Van Klei added four points, senior Megan Buerkley chipped in three and junior Melissa Bishop added two points to round out the scoring for the Ponies.

The Stillwater defense was also impressive in the road win. The Ponies held Prior Lake to just 26.7 percent shooting from the field (12-for45) and they also forced 19 turnovers with 13 of them coming on steals.

Stillwater also held a decisive edge on the boards. The Ponies out-rebounded the home team by a tally of 45-34. Stillwater used an aggressive approach on the offensive glass to score 13 second-chance points. Prior Lake only scored two points on second chances.

The Ponies, who used the win to break a four-game losing streak, hope to carry the momentum into this week. The girls traveled to Hill-Murray on Tuesday for the three-day Hill-Murray Holiday Classic to finish out the 2005 portion of their schedule.

Stillwater returns to the friendly confines of SAHS next week when Rosemount and Mounds View come to The Stable on Tuesday and Thursday, respectively. Both games tip off at 7:30 p.m.

Matt Higgins is at 651-777-3830 and at sports@stillwatercourier.com.