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March 20, 2019

2/14/2019 3:15:00 PM
Chisago Lakes holds on to beat Rogers, happily says farewell to St. Michael

St. Michael-Albertville 73, Chisago Lakes 30
The Wildcats played what they hope is their last game against St. Michael-Albertville last week, losing 73-30.

The Knights have run roughshod over Chisago Lakes and the rest of the Mississippi 8 since this version of the conference has been together, but they are leaving next year for a bigger conference, and the rest of the M8C couldn’t be happier.

“They are probably the most well-disciplined team that we've ever played against.  They play tough pressure defense without reaching and commit very few fouls,” Head Coach Craig Walker said. “Offensively, they are patient when needed, but transition really well.”

The ‘Cats held their ground in the first nine minutes, as they mixed up their zone defense and got nice contributions on offense from sophomore Emma Bjelland, who was making her first career start. “Emma has been a spark for us many times as our season has progressed and has earned a starting spot both with her improving offense and defense.”  

But, as the game wore on, the tide tilted heavily in favor of the Knights. They were able to force turnovers by the ‘Cats and turn those into easy fast break points. They scored 42 points off turnovers and shot 60 percent from in close on the break.

St. Michael-Albertville trotted out many subs in the second half, but they are such a deep and talented team that they continuted to pull away from CL. Bjelland led CL with eight points, four rebounds and two assists. Lillian Pearson saw extended time with Sophie Wood in foul trouble from the get-go, and she scored six points in the second half.

Chisago Lakes 50, Rogers 49
The stars came out to play for Chisago Lakes as they built a big lead early and held off a late Rogers rally to get their sixth win of the year, 50-49.

A game after getting in early foul trouble, Wood dominated play on both ends of the floor, scoring 20 points and grabbing 10 boards. She also helped limit Rogers’ best post player to just nine points on the night.

Sarah Bjelland had one of her best games of the year, scoring 14 points, grabbing eight rebounds and dishing out six assists, and fellow senior Hannah Gillach scored 10 points to go along with five rebounds and five assists.

Chisago Lakes was down 8-2 early on, but went on a 12-0 run to take the lead. The spark was provided by the three stars, with two Bjelland three pointers, a Gillach three and a Wood finish down low.

 The ‘Cats ended up finishing the first half on a 9-2 run, which gave them a 32-23 lead at the break.

“Sophie was dominating things inside and Hannah, Sarah and Emma were able to get her the basketball with success,” Walker explained. Wood scored 16 off her 20 in the first half.  

CL did just enough scoring and rebounding in the second half as Rogers upped their pressure and switched defenses to limit Wood in the middle.  “We struggled with their pressure in the half court and were cold from the outside,” Walker explained.  

Sarah Bjelland hit two more three's and Gillach added her second with 2:30 remaining to give CL a 48-43 lead.  Rogers responded with three to cut the lead to 48-46 until Lizzy Godden found Wood at the left elbow where she was able to split two Royal defenders for a bucket and a 50-46 lead with a minute and a half remaining.
Of course, Rogers responded  by hitting their seventh three on the next possession with 1:15 remaining to cut into the lead at 5-49.  The ‘Cats had a chance for a steal on the possession, but an errant Rogers pass went through the hands of a surprised CL defender.

Chisago Lakes’ ensuing possession was a patient one with two offensive rebounds and ended with sophomore Jill Erickson rebounding a  Godden miss at the rim and earning two free throws after a foul. Unfortunately for the youngster, Erickson missed both and the Royals had the ball down one with 41 seconds remaining.

“They have been in eight games ending in less than five points, but have only won three.  I liked our chances at the end,” Walker noted after the contest.  Rogers ran the clock down to 10 seconds and took a time out to draw up a play for the win. They were able to get a three point look off a back screen that was contested by Wood. It hit back rim and bounced back toward the shooter as Emma Bjelland was able to grab the rebound.  But, Emma ended up on the ground between two Royals defenders, one ended up with the ball and a second shot for the win which was also a miss and a Wildcat win. “I have no idea how Emma ended up on the ground without a call, but thank goodness they ran out of time as they got the rebound next to the basket after the second shot missed,” an exasperated Walker said of the close call at the end.

Chisago Lakes has now won four of their last six in the Mississippi 8 Conference. They took on Buffalo earlier this week in another match up against a team that is leaving the conference, and also tussled with North Branch in a rivalry game. They’ll take on Princeton on Valentine’s Day, Thursday, February 14 at Princeton, before two straight trips up north to Superior and Cloquet on Feb. 16 and Feb. 19.

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