January 12, 2012 at 8:45 a.m.
Fresh off of their South St. Paul Holiday championship, the Chisago Lakes girls basketball team fell just short against conference rival Totino-Grace.
The game was a choppy affair, called a little too tightly by the referees, as the two squads combined for 44 fouls.
That wasn't the early case, though, as Hannah Trandahl and Whitney Tinjum combined for a pretty effective transition game that sent the Eagles reeling. "We started off playing well defensively and getting Whitney good looks," Head Coach Craig Walker said. "Hannah continues to play well and really got our transition offense going."
The Eagles answered back with the simple, but effective, pick and roll. "We knew coming in that their point guard was the key to their success either on the drive or shooting the three," Walker said of his team's defensive strategy. "We contained her from beyond the arc, but struggled with her ability to find her teammates as she drove to the basket."
Despite the heavy dose of pick-and-roll, the Wildcats only trailed by one point at halftime thanks in large part to 19 points by Tinjum at the break.
However, Tinjum got into some early foul trouble in the second half and Totino adjusted their defense to suffocate her game. It worked, as she only scored one more point along the way, but her teammates picked up the slack in a balanced effort.
The main cog in the 'Cats second half game was Bryanna Fernstrom. The towering sophomore had struggled in the first half, but she scored 10 of her 12 points in the second half. She was joined by Brittney Land, who scored five of her seven points in the second frame. Walker attributed it to just getting the two better looks around the basket, where they specialize in making opponents pay.
Chisago Lakes actually grabbed a small lead, but shortly after Tinjum fouled out for good, and things got tough.
Senior point guard Gabby Zehrer went to work, finding success from the field and the free throw line. Behind her, the Eagles soared to a seven point lead with only a few minutes left in the game.
The Wildcats wouldn't quit, though. Annie Stenson and Katelyn Ramberg hit some big three pointers to get the momentum back. Trandahl was true from the free throw line when she needed to be, also.
With only seconds left on the clock, Stenson went to the free throw line down by five. She made the first and then intentionally missed the second. Fernstrom grabbed the rebound and got the putback to draw CL to within two points. But, with a successful TG inbounds pass, time ran out on the Wildcats' frantic comeback and they lost 65-63.
"We learned some things about ourselves today that will help us down the road and the next time we see Totino in February," Walker said. "Without Whitney on the floor, we were able to come most of the way back against a decent team. Along with our normal starters, Katie Jennissen is beginning to find success on the court, as is Ramberg. That will help us down the road."
Chisago Lakes 73, Cloquet 33
The Wildcats took a double-dipping road trip up north over the weekend.
With their new section this year, it's important for them to play some of the teams that they aren't used to, and they got that in this trip with a contest against Cloquet on Friday night and Grand Rapids on Saturday afternoon. "Being in a new section this season made this a big trip for our girls," Walker said.
The first match up of the weekend was against Cloquet, and the Lumberjacks didn't stand much of a chance from the beginning.
Trandahl, Tinjum and Land combined to speed past the perimeter defense of Cloquet and pound away at the low post defense.
Land scored 12 of her 14 points in the first half, and so did Tinjum. "Brittney played her best game of the year for us," Walker said. "She's hurting a little with a knee issue, but in our last three games she's been using her quickness and giving us a nice combination with Bryanna in the post."
By halftime, the Wildcats were up 46-21 and got a chance to rest a lot of their starters for the matinee contest on Saturday.
Tinjum finished with 18 points, Stenson had nine and Zoe Hansen scored eight while playing some sensational defense.
Chisago Lakes 76, Grand Rapids 63
The big match up of the weekend came on Saturday. Although Grand Rapids is struggling a bit this year and was 4-7 heading into the game, the section has ran through them the last half decade. They've gone to state three out of the last four years from the section and they are one of the measuring sticks -- along with Hermantown, who is 10-2 on the season so far.
"They've been where we want to go as a team," Walker said of the Thunderhawks.
Chisago Lakes' aggressive offense paid big dividends early on in the game. "We can put a lot of pressure on a team to play solid defense inside and outside," Walker explained. And Grand Rapids didn't respond well to that.
The Wildcats shot 20 first half free throws and two of Grand Rapids best players were on the bench for a large chunk of the first half because of foul trouble.
Tinjum led the 'Cats in scoring in the first half, netting 13 points while Stenson had 10.
Trandahl also created plenty of turnovers and her ability to move the ball up the court quickly translated into some easy points for CL as they cruised to a 41-24 halftime lead.
"We celebrated our first half successes at half time and then focused our attention on the second half knowing that the Thunderhawks have been in many tough games this season as well as the last few seasons," Walker noted. "They have been in section finals and state tournament games and we knew that they would come back at some point."
But, Chisago Lakes kept their foot on the accelerator in the beginning of the second half with Fernstrom mashing Grand Rapids interior defense and scoring nine quick points.
Fernstom and Land used some of their post moves to get Jessa Sondergaard, GR's 6'2" center, into foul trouble and open up the middle for the CL guards.
The Wildcats built a 25 point lead and were able to rest many of their top players again as they cruised to the 76-63 victory.
Tinjum again led the way with 26 points. She also collected her 1,000th career rebound in the contest. Fernstrom had 14 points and Stenson ended with 13.
The 'Cats took on section, conference and county rival North Branch earlier this week. The Vikings are also having a solid season at 8-3.
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