March 21, 2013 at 10:12 a.m.
DeLaSalle 73, Chisago Lakes 49
The luck of the draw in the state tournament has haunted Chisago Lakes High School in the past, and in 2013, the girls basketball team felt the sting of that bad luck.
They drew the DeLaSalle Islanders in the first round of last week’s state tournament. DeLaSalle was the second seed, but they had won the last two state championships and returned a majority of their team. DeLaSalle quickly established themselves as the game started, going up 5-0 early, but the Wildcats, seasoned with their own state tournament experience from last year, responded with a 5-0 run to tie the game.
Katelyn Ramberg got the ‘Cats on the board first with a three pointer and then Fernstrom battled down low, getting two offensive rebounds before putting back her own miss. The next five minutes of the game proved to be very important, and very frustrating, for the Wildcats. The teams remained tied at 5-5 for three of those five minutes. But, the ‘Cats had their chances in that stretch. As a result of strong defense, the offense was racing up and down the court, but they missed two shots, committed two turnovers and gave away two fouls in that timeframe.
Eventually, DeLaSalle started hitting their shots They ran off the next 11 points, swelling what was a close game into what appeared to be heading towards a blowout. Chisago Lakes’ offense began to find a bit of rhythm and started to hit shots and keep the Islanders in their cross hairs. They eventually trimmed it down to seven points at 23-15, but DeLaSalle hit their next two shots to stretch the lead back to nine points at 27-16 But junior center Bryanna Fernstrom promptly put the ‘Cats on her back and tried to fuel a comeback attempt. She started it by hitting a layup to trim the lead to 27-18.
Sarah Greene followed with two free throws and DLS answered with their own basket to make it 29-20. Less than 15 seconds later, Fernstrom answered with another lay up before nabbing her first steal of the game on the defensive end. She then came back down the court and finished off another bucket, bringing CL to within five at 29-24 with a minute and a half left in the first stanza, forcing DeLaSalle to call a timeout.
The Chisago Lakes crowd was roaring, the bench was jacked up and even Head Coach Craig Walker had a bit of a swagger to his walk after that stretch of dominance by Fernstrom. But, it seemed like the ‘Cats were just content to be close when they came back out on the court and the Islanders attacked. They ran off a 6-0 run to close the half and put their lead back to 11 at 35-24 at the break. Greene opened the second half with a driving basket, but DeLaSalle’s offense quickly began to wear down the Wildcats and they rattled off six straight points after Greene’s opening basket.
“They have the ability to capitalize on any turnover or rebound and turn it into quick points in transition or with the three point shot,” Walker said of DLS’s deadly offense. Throughout the remainder of the game, it never really got close as DeLaSalle held a 15-20 point lead the rest of the way despite CL’s best efforts.
The Islanders ended up winning the game 73-49, sending Chisago Lakes to a final season record of 22-8. “We gave them a game, but you have to play an almost perfect game against them to have a chance at the end,” Walker said afterwards. “Their athleticism was something that we haven't seen since Superior in December when we weren't playing the best ball and it affected our ability to get to the basket. We didn't finish at the rim like we're used to due to their shot blocking.”
That interior defense by the Islanders especially hurt Greene and Hannah Trandahl, who shot a combined two-for-23 on the day. Fernstrom was the only Wildcat who was terribly effective against DeLaSalle. She scored 17 points on seven-of-15 shooting and grabbed 14 rebounds, including five offensive boards. No other Wildcat was in double figures. Greene did have six points, eight rebounds and three steals.
DeLaSalle was paced by different players all game. Taylor Toney led them with 17 points, Tyseanna Johnson had 16 points and 13 rebounds, Patiance Griffin had 14 points and Allina Star chipped in 13 in the winning effort. DeLaSalle went on a tear throughout the rest of the state tourney, winning their third straight title. They beat Monticello in the semifinals 67-42 and then won the state title with a 65-50 victory over Red Wing, although they didn’t have to play any of the top four seeds. Red Wing was the fifth seed and upset fourth-seeded New Prague and top-seeded Richfield en route to the title game and Monticello had upset third-seeded Fergus Falls in the first round in two overtimes.
“Obviously a tough draw for us, but our experience last season allowed the girls to be much more prepared and ready,” Walker said. “The result wasn't what we wanted, but it was a much better game against the two-time AAA champion. “The girls didn’t back down and came into the game with confidence. Having played here last year, most of them were not nervous about the game or the court or anything. We didn’t play our best in all categories, but when you play against a team of their caliber defensively, there are no easy baskets.”
Walker checked his seniors out of the game near the end of the loss, and it was an emotional time for each one. The first was guard Hannah Trandahl, who often had the bumps and bruises to show how fearlessly she drove the lane, but she never turned her motor down or let up. After that, a stream of other seniors began to come out, and each had tears welling from their eyes. Katie Jennissen, Katelyn Ramberg, Lydia Spading and Beka Meyer all ended their careers on the raised floor of Williams Arena, but none of them needed to hang their head at their most recent game.
“I'm so proud of our girls and the work and effort they've put into this season. This is the most unselfish group of players that I've coached. The leadership on and off the court provided by our seniors has been phenomenal,” Walker explained. “Our seniors have had an experience that most high school athletes do not get. Winning section seven and going to the state tournament in back to back years is a great accomplishment and they’ve left a tradition of team success and great character that future Wildcat teams will strive to equal.”
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