Hayfield remains unbeaten, will face Grand Meadow in Section 1A girls basketball title game
Hayfield fought off a scrappy Lanesboro team, while Grand Meadow survived in its third meeting of the season against Kingsland, in Saturday's Section 1A girls basketball semifinals.
Anyone who assumed the top-seeded and undefeated Hayfield girls basketball team would coast to a comfortable victory Saturday night was sorely mistaken.
Hayfield did indeed win, toppling Lanesboro 60-49 in the semifinals of the Section 1A girls basketball tournament at Mayo Civic Auditorium. The score itself might also let most assume the result was a comfortable one for the Vikings.
But “coast” certainly isn’t the appropriate word in describing their path to victory. They had to fight for every inch against the fourth-seeded Burros.
“It definitely wasn’t our best today,” said Hayfield coach Kasey Krekling, whose team will play for a return trip to the state tournament on March 10. “It didn’t look crisp. It was a step slow. I certainly attribute a lot of that to (Lanesboro) playing really well. We just looked a step slow most of the night.”
The Vikings certainly started both halves slow on Saturday.
In the first half, especially, with Lanesboro’s limited depth still sporting fresh legs, Hayfield was limited to just 13 points in the first 11 minutes of the game as the Burros scrapped through the Vikings’ relentless full-court press to the tune of a 26-13 lead with 6:49 remaining in the first half.
At that point, Hayfield was on the ropes.
“Defensively, they’re full court, man to man. They jump traps. That’s what they like to do. And we were able to prepare for it,” Lanesboro coach Bret Klaehn said. “I think knowing what they were planning on doing and being able to prepare helped us stave off that initial attack and helped us settle in.
“That was our big focus going into it, just how to deal with their pressure, and I felt like we did that. And then offensively, we had a few fast breaks earlier that they adjusted to, and we were also able to get the ball in to our post. We just made some plays. We were fired up and ready to go.”
Unfortunately for Lanesboro, the third-ranked Vikings (30-0) eventually displayed why they’ve yet to lose a game this season.
In a flash, the Burros’ hard-earned lead in the first half vanished in just more than a minute and a half, as a 13-0 run — a stretch highlighted by back-to-back 3-pointers from sophomore wing Natalie Beaver — made it 26-all before both sides eventually went into the break knotted at 30.
Hayfield started out sluggish in the second half, too. But so did Lanesboro.
Following an early layup from junior Jessie Schreiber just four seconds into the half, both the Vikings and Burros failed to convert a field goal attempt for the next five minutes, as the Burros still managed to cling to a slim 34-33 lead with 12:45 to play.
That’s when Hayfield, and sophomore guard Kristen Watson in particular, turned on the jets.
Watson’s first 3-pointer of the night took the lead from Lanesboro for good with 12:12 on the clock. She then poured an additional 10 points down the stretch en route to a game-high 25, as the Burros’ tired legs simply couldn’t hold up against the Vikings’ relentless pressure.
“We always had confidence,” Watson said. “We didn’t play like we’re capable of on defense, but we just continued to push each other to be better.”
“We left it all on the floor,” Klaehn said. "Talking to those girls in the locker room just now, there’s nothing left. They gave it everything they had. They did everything that we asked them to do all week in practice. It just wasn’t quite enough in the end, but man it was fun.”
Hayfield 60, Lanesboro 49
Skyler Check 2 P; Malia Tessum 7 P; Brielle Ruen 7 P, 1 3-PT; Jensyn Storhoff 8 P; Jessie Schreiber 12 P, 9 R; Kaci Ruen 13 P, 13 R.
Ava Carney 2 P; McKenna Chick 3 P, 1 3-PT; Kristen Watson 25 P, 8 R, 2 3-PT; Chelsea Christopherson 2 P; Aine Stasko 10 P, 8 R; Natalie Beaver 18 P, 8 R, 2 3-PT.
Halftime: LANE 30, HAY 30.
Free throws: LANE 12-23, HAY 17-25.
Three-point goals: LANE 1, HAY 5.
Grand Meadow 46, Kingsland 37
This time of year, only one thing matters in sports. Just ask the Grand Meadow girls basketball team.
Saturday’s Section 1A tournament semifinal game against Kingsland at the Rochester Civic Center was a gritty spectacle, even ugly at times. Turnovers, missed shots, several minutes-long scoring droughts. Not exactly a high-flying affair.
But style points aren’t a prerequisite for playoff victories.
All that matters for the Superlarks is that they won, which they did. Led by 15 points from junior Sydney Cotton, Grand Meadow booked its place in the section championship game with a 46-37 win over the Knights.
“It’s two teams that know each other very well, and our girls had a really good week of practice. They did a good job of controlling their emotions and executing the game plan,” Grand Meadow coach Ryan Queensland said. “They didn’t get too rattled. They stuck to what they wanted to do. They bought into that, and I really think that made the difference.
“We were fortunate tonight. We had a few more shots fall than Kingsland did, and again, they’re a very good team. They fought hard. We’ve got nothing but respect for them.”
Field goals were tough to come by for both teams at various points of Saturday’s game, especially in the second half.
The Superlarks entered the break sporting a narrow 25-22 lead. Nearly five minutes into the second half, that score remained unchanged, as a layup from Kendyl Queensland snapped a combined scoreless streak of 4 minutes, 43 seconds, a stretch highlighted by tough defense and errant shots.
“I can say that when you play a team as much as we play them, we know each other better than we know ourselves at times. And that’s what made the grittiness what it was,” Kingsland coach Steve Hauser said. “Every time we play them, this is what happens. You can score 60-70 points in another game, but when it’s Grand Meadow against Kingsland, you’re going to see 30-40 points, that’s it.
“They hit some key shots. They did. And we missed some. We went through a few droughts that hurt us. Missed some easy shots. They hit some key shots, and that’s what the game often comes down to when it’s that close.”
In all, both sides combined for just 11 field goals in the second half. Grand Meadow made six of them, along with a 6-1 edge in free throws.
That’s the ballgame.
“You have to give a lot of credit to Kingsland,” Ryan Queensland said. “All year long, they played tremendous defense. They’re in your face, they’re aggressive, they’re high energy. So they limit your looks, and they don’t give you good looks so a lot of times you have to rush your shot, so credit to them and their defense and their coaches.
"And this is a tougher place to shoot in, too. So you put those two things together, and it’s a recipe to struggle. That’s why defense and rebounding is key, and our girls did a nice job of making the plays when they needed to.”
Kingsland was led by senior Shelby Beck, who racked up a team-high 15 points, 12 of which were poured in from behind the 3-point arc.
Beck scored the first two buckets of the game, both 3-pointers, to give the Knights an early 6-0 lead. But the Superlarks took the lead just more than 5 minutes later as part of a 16-4 scoring run that put them in front for good.
Grand Meadow will take on No. 3 Hayfield for the section championship at 6 p.m. Thursday at Mayo Civic Arena.
Grand Meadow 46, Kingsland 37
GRAND MEADOW (46)
McKenna Hendrickson 6 P, 2 3-PT; Lauren Queensland 6 P, 7 R; Sydney Cotten 15 P, 2 3-PT; Kendyl Queensland 6 P, 2 3-PT; River Landers 8 P; Lexy Foster 5 P, 8 R.
Alexys Harwood 2 P; Katelyn Hauser 6 P, 2 3-PT; Audrey Webster 12 P, 2 3-PT; Shelby Beck 15 P, 4 3-PT; Chantle Reiland 2 P.
Halftime: GM 25, KING 22.
Free throws: GM 12-15, KING 3-4.
Three-point goals: GM 6, KING 8.