February 9, 2012 at 11:15 a.m.
Chisago Lakes 75, Irondale 34
It didn’t take much time for Chisago Lakes to send a short-handed Irondale Knight squad home empty-handed when the two teams squared off early last week.
The Knights traveled to CL with two starters out of the lineup due to injury.
With such a shorthanded roster that was overmatched to begin with, the Knights turned to some awfully physical play on the defensive end, especially against Wildcat superstar Whitney Tinjum.
They were daring the rest of the ‘Cats to beat them.
“Their plan had some success, but the other Wildcats didn't let that stand in the way of cruising to victory in the second half,” Head Coach Craig Walker said after the contest. “Whitney faced intense defense, sometimes defense that crossed the line, and she was limited to 12 points.”
But, with most of their defensive focus glaring on Tinjum, that left the lane wide open for Bryanna Fernstrom and Brittney Land, CL’s two effective post players. Although they missed some early open shots, the Wildcats cruised to a 29-18 lead at halftime because of their rebounding and interior defense.
In the second half, those easy shots that Land and Fernstrom were struggling with earlier started to fall, and it spelled disaster for Irondale.
At halftime, Walker instructed guards Hannah Trandahl and Zoe Hansen to pound the ball inside to Fernstrom and Land, and Land ended up with 20 points as the game’s top scorer and Fernstrom had 18.
“We took another step as a team tonight and were able to use our strengths beyond Whitney's ability on the court and were successful,” Walker said. “Bryanna and Brittney stepped up to the challenge and did great. As a senior, Brittney has stepped up and taken advantage of her opportunities. We have been very impressed with her defense and rebounding and she has stepped up her game offensively, as well.”
Robbinsdale Cooper 69, Chisago Lakes 67
Despite holding a lead most of the game, the Wildcats just couldn’t finish off what would have been a signature victory for them this year.
The ‘Cats have lost against some of the best teams they’ve played this year, and were still looking to get a win that would prove they truly belong among the state’s elite in the top 10 polls.
Cooper was ranked #7 in Class 4A coming into the game and sported a 15-4 record.
Things started off bleak for the Wildcats as the Hawks took an early 8-1 lead. But, Tinjum was on fire on the night, and her offense, combined with some tough defense by the ‘Cats allowed them to take a sizable lead of their own.
Going into halftime, the Wildcats led 40-33 and were in prime position for the upset over Cooper.
Chisago Lakes held their lead for most of the second half, but Cooper -- being the good team they are --wouldn’t go away, and eventually pulled even with just over three minutes left in the game.
With under a minute remaining and Cooper clinging to a two-point lead, the ‘Cats brought the ball up the court and they were able to get three different shots off -- all contested, but all makeable -- to potentially tie the game.
Finally, Cooper secured the rebound. CL immediately fouled and the Cooper free throw shooter only made one-of-two on her attempts to stretch the lead to three.
Unfortunately for the Wildcats, they turned the ball over on their next possession right away and had to foul again. The Cooper shooter again went one-for-two from the charity stripe, but the make turned it into a two possession game.
After Trandahl pushed the ball up the court, Land made a lay up with five seconds left, but without a timeout, the Wildcats didn’t have time to set up their press, and Cooper inbounded the ball and time ran out on the ‘Cats late comeback.
“We became too stagnant against their zone defense in the second half and they took us out of our game offensively,” Walker explained after the exhausting loss. “They are a quality basketball team ranked with the big schools and are very athletic. We did a good job defending the three, but we didn't rebound as well as we can and they were able to get to the free throw line too many times in the second half and they made just enough.”
Tinjum led the ‘Cats with 31 points and Bryanna Fernstrom added 13 in the loss.
The result left the Wildcats at 15-5 on the season and 7-4 in the North Suburban. That record puts them at fourth. Barring a massive upset, Benilde-St. Margaret’s has the North Suburban title wrapped up, and it’s now up to Cooper and Totino to jockey for second and third, with the ‘Cats hoping to sneak into that third place spot.
They took on Totino-Grace earlier this week in an attempt to avenge one of their early losses, and then host St. Francis before traveling to Hermantown this weekend for shootout with one of the top teams in their new section.
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