February 16, 2012 at 8:35 a.m.
By JEFF NORTON
Chisago Lakes 71, Totino-Grace 70
After a close loss to the Totino-Grace Eagles earlier in the year, the Chisago Lakes girls basketball team had Monday, Feb. 6 circled on their calendar. And they got just what they were looking for.
“This was a big win for us in the conference,” Head Coach Craig Walker said. “Having lost to them by two earlier in the year, we wanted some retribution this time around.”
The Wildcats looked like the might take a sizable lead into halftime, but Totino-Grace went on a little run to tie the game at 36 at the half.
The second half was a battle of attrition between the two evenly-matched teams. Walker was content on shutting down everyone on the floor except the Eagles’ Gabby Zehrer. In the game earlier this year, the ‘Cats tried too hard to limit Zehrer and the other players made CL pay.
This time, Zehrer almost did beat the Wildcats single-handedly. Down the stretch Chisago Lakes took a small lead on pinpoint free throw shooting by Whitney Tinjum, but Zehrer made some shots from the charity stripe herself.
With under 15 seconds left, the Wildcats had a one point lead, but Katelyn Ramberg was at the line with two free throws. She made both of them for her only two points of the night and stretched the lead to three and left Totino with one last desperation play.
Zehrer buzzed down the court and from the left corner, she split two defenders and lunged towards the basket, almost heaving the three point shot towards the basket just hoping for a foul. She didn’t get the foul call, but the ball managed to go through the hoop and tie the game at 70 with five seconds left.
The ‘Cats inbounded the ball to Tinjum to get one last shot, but in the hectic stretch, one of the Eagles’ had lost her mental edge. Junior Madison Soukup immediately fouled Tinjum, forgetting that the three pointer had just tied the game and there wasn’t a need to foul anymore.
With Chisago Lakes in the bonus, the foul stopped the clock and sent Tinjum to the line without ever having to advance the ball.
Tinjum made the first free throw and despite missing the second, there wasn’t any time left for Totino to advance the ball. A last second shot from three-quarters court fell harmlessly short and the Wildcats stormed the floor after the big win.
“Whitney won the battle of conference scoring leaders with 35 and Zoe Hansen stepped up with 12 points,” Walker said. “Katelyn Ramberg had those two huge free throws at the end.”
Chisago Lakes 79, St. Francis 55
The Wildcats hosted St. Francis in the Ward Gym late last week and they cruised to a victory over the 8-12 Saints.
St. Francis’s roster is littered with guards, and the tallest girl is 5’10”, and that proved to be lethal against a Chisago Lakes team loaded with size.
Six-foot, five-inch Bryanna Fernstrom had no problem dominating the paint, and 6’2” Tinjum created huge match up problems on the outside.
Fernstrom responded to increased touches by scoring a career high 29 points for Chisago Lakes. Tinjum netted 25 and those two alone nearly outscored St. Francis.
Hannah Trandahl was the ‘Cats main distributor, handing out nine assists on the night and Hansen added a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds.
“We were better defensively in the second half and were able to regain some defensive focus after the first half.”
Chisago Lakes 67, Hermantown 57
This was arguably the Wildcats biggest game of the week.
Although the win over Totino was nice, in the grand scheme of the conference, it didn’t matter that much, as Benilde-St. Margaret’s essentially has the title locked up.
But, traveling up to Hermantown meant the first match up of the year between what is currently the top two seeds in the new Section 7AAA.
The Wildcats were 17-5 on the year heading into the tilt and the Hawks were 16-6.
Early in the game, Hermantown tried to nullify Chisago Lakes’ interior defensive advantage by launching as many jumpers from beyond the arc as they could. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, Hermantown was hot from the outside, hitting eight-of-14 three pointers in the first half, grabbing a 40-28 lead at the break.
“We knew coming in that Hermantown could shoot well from the outside,” Walker said. “We had scouted them against Duluth East and saw that they shot a bunch of threes.”
There wasn’t any one player to focus on for Chisago Lakes, either. Their eight threes came from four different players hitting two long distance shots each, and the Hawks were hitting their shots at a 56 percent clip.
The Wildcats were also having a tough time on offense, except for getting to the line. Chisago Lakes got to the charity stripe 16 times in the first half, but they were only able to convert nine of those free points.
“We challenged the girls at halftime to defend more aggressively on and off the ball. Player to player, we are more athletic than Hermantown and needed to play like it in the second half,” Walker said. “We actually didn’t talk much about the offensive side of the ball, other than we need to continue to be aggressive and penetrate against their zone defense.”
The renewed focus on defense energized the Wildcats and started to fluster the Hawks. Their pressure forced multiple turnovers by Hermantown and also limited their open looks beyond the three point line.
With the Hawks cooling down to a 25 percent clip from beyond the arc in the second half (two-of-eight), the Chisago Lakes offense went to work. Tinjum was battling on the perimeter and hit two big three point shots as CL fought back. With the defense focused on Fernstrom down low, senior Brittney Land took over the paint and scored 15 second half points for the Wildcats.
Trandahl, along with Tinjum, started to become playmakers and dish the ball to their teammates for open looks and once they decided to get going, Hermantown couldn’t do much except stand back and watch. The Wildcats blasted Hermantown in the second half, out-scoring them 40-17 en rout to a 67-57 win.
“This was obviously a big comeback win for us and will make us better during section play,” Walker said. “To have to battle and work for this victory will make us respect our opponent’s abilities and not overlook anyone in the next three weeks.”
Tinjum and Land each scored 20 points in the victory, Fernstrom had nine, Trandahl had eight and Hansen added seven.
Chisago Lakes closes out their regular season in the next week. They take on Fridley, Spring Lake Park and North Branch in a span of seven days before testing themselves in the new Section 7AAA, which they are now clearly the favorites to come out of.
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