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November 18, 2018

2/26/2018 11:51:00 AM
After early success, CL girls hoops struggling to find consistency lately

Since ripping off five straight wins in mid-January, the Chisago Lakes girls basketball team has been the model of inconsistency.

They alternated wins and losses over their next nine games, but the most recent stretch has been the toughest.

They’ve only lost two games in a row, but one of them was to Cambridge-Isanti, a team that was 2-21 heading into the match up and had lost to CL by 24 points just two and a half weeks prior.

Cambridge-Isanti 57, Chisago Lakes 52
The Wildcats were coming off a five day break, but it seems that was a hinderance more than a helper.

The game started out well in Cambridge on Thursday, February 15, with Chisago Lakes jumping out to a 14-6 lead behind Sarah Bjelland and Carmen Backes. C-I hung around until Chisago Lakes went on another little run, this time stretching their lead to 12 at 25-13.

For a while, it looked like it would be a carbon copy of the first match up. Then the Bluejackets went on a 12-7 run to close out the first half and that trimmed the lead to just seven for Chisago Lakes.

In the second half, Chisago Lakes’ started to struggle with the ‘Jackets zone trap defensive scheme and C-I began to chip away at the lead.
To make matters worse, the Wildcats went ice cold from the floor, shooting just 16 percent from beyond the arc.

“Cambridge started to feed of their defensive press and frustrated most of our shooters,” Head Coach Craig Walker said. “They brought energy again tonight and were able to hit shots that they missed against us in the first meeting. We are struggling with our outside shooting since we lost Anna Peters to a season ending knee injury a few games ago and couldn't get our shots to fall against their zone.”

As the ‘Cats went cold, the Bluejackets surged, passing CL and holding on for the 57-52 win, just their third of the year.

The loss in general encapsulates the inconsistent nature of the ‘Cats season. They’ve now lost to a 3-21 team in Cambridge-Isanti, but beat a team that is 20-2 and ranked in the top five in the state in Mahtomedi.

Backes led the ‘Cats with 26 points and 11 rebounds, and Sophie Wood chipped in eight points and 11 rebounds, but CL struggled to find any scoring outside of that. “WE are having a tough time finding complementary scorers to Carmen,” Walker said.

Buffalo 74, Chisago Lakes
Buffalo had a much better pedigree coming into the game against CL on Saturday, February 17, sporting a 14-9 record against mostly Class 4A schools, but it was  the same formula. Chisago Lakes played well early, leading by as many as 11 in the first half, before Buffalo took control in the second stanza and sent CL to their third loss in four games.

The game featured a premier battle of the top two scorers in the conference in Backes and Buffalo’s Jordan Zrust.

Zrust not only won the individual scoring battle, but her team got the victory as well.

Backes paced to the Wildcats to their early leads by scoring 19 of her 31 points in the first half, but it was a role reversal in the second half with Zrust scoring 21 of her 35 points as Buffalo cruised past Chisago Lakes.

“We've been getting beat at the free throw line lately as teams are making more free throw shots than we are even attempting in our last few losses,” Walker explained. “That is a tell that we are not being aggressive enough to the basket and settling for too many outside shots.”  

There is only two games left in the season, and they are against Minnehaha Academy and Princeton on senior night. “We’ll have a good practice Monday night and talk about the little things we can each do to improve our game and I’m confident that we’ll turn things around in our last two games,” Walker said. “I know that our team chemistry will improve as we head into the sections.”

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