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Rough start dooms Houston girls in state quarterfinals

Houston had trouble doing much right in the opening half, then turned things around after that. But it was too late as the previously unbeaten Hurrricanes lost 67-34 to No. 1 ranked Minneota in the girls basketball state quarterfinals.

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MANKATO — Houston was playing in its first girls state basketball tournament. It was taking on No. 1 Class A ranked Minneota.

All of that couldn't have been more evident to open Tuesday's state quarterfinal game at Mankato East. Both teams completely resembled those truths as Minneota roared to a massive first-half lead and then easily hung on to win, 67-34.

Houston, which finished its season 18-1, did a 180 in the second half, looking infinitely more crisp and finally hitting shots. But it was too late. There was no coming all the way back from its 43-15 intermission deficit against a team this good.

"You can't get (28 points) behind a team this good and expect to come back," Houston fifth-year coach Dale Moga said. "I'll credit (our) nerves to some of it. But I think that Minneota just came out more aggressive than we did. You have to tip your hat to them. But we definitely did settle down the second half and played more like the Houston basketball team that we are."

Unbeaten Minneota, which has won 41 straight games dating back to last season, takes a 23-0 record into the state semifinals.

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Fast, quick and skilled, the Vikings rode that powerful blend offensively and defensively to romp Tuesday. They forced what in the first half was a skittish-looking Houston team into 20 turnovers, 12 of them before intermission.

Also factor in experience when analyzing Minneota. Were it not for the pandemic cutting last spring's state tournament short, the Vikings might be hunting for their third straight state championship. They beat Goodhue in the 2019 title game. A handful of those players remain on this 2021 edition.

But besides experience, there is so much talent.

"They are super athletic and strong," Moga said. "You can't take a play off against a team that good. They pressure the ball and really read passing lanes."

It was the Vikings' defense which struck Houston star guard Emma Geiwitz most. Geiwitz, who averages 23 points per game, was held to just eight by Minneota, including going scoreless in the first half.

That was still more points than any other Hurricane managed.

"Minneota has a fantastic defense," Geiwitz said. "They also hit their shots. I wish them the best. They are just a really good team. They're stellar."

The Vikings got huge games from guards Natalee Rolbiecki and Abby Hennen, each with 21 points. They were part of a sweet-shooting group that nailed nine 3-pointers. Hennen had three of those.

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Houston, which was partly bogged down in the first half thanks to Geiwitz spending a long stretch on the bench with three fouls, looked like a different team after intermission.

It began the second half with sudden confidence. Becca Rostad hit a 3-pointer to open things, and then Gewitz nailed one about 2 minutes later. There was also a free throw made by Sydney Torgerson and an inside basket by Amelia Torgerson as the Hurricanes went on a 9-5 scoring run.

But the run didn't last long, however, as Minneota soon went back to hitting shots and making things difficult for Houston. A couple of Vikings 3-pointers later and they were in massive command again, on top 57-24.

Still, Houston knew that it was better for the experience. This was a measuring stick, going against the state's best team.

Now, it'll be back to work for all of the Hurricanes non-seniors. That certainly includes sophomore standout Sydney Torgerson, who was Houston's second leading scorer Tuesday with seven points. She averages 15 points and eight rebounds.

"What I personally take away from this season is that there is still lots of stuff to work on," Torgerson said. "I need to keep improving my game as best I can to help improve our team. I'll be asking myself what I can do to get better. I'll do a lot of stuff this summer and we'll do a lot of stuff as a team, to keep building that chemistry."

Minneota 67, Houston 34
HOUSTON (34)
Priya Kingsley 2 P; Sydney Torgerson 7 P; Olivia Beckman 2 P; Ashtyn Meyer 5 P, 1 3-PT; Nicole Beckman 3 P; Emma Geiwitz 8 P, 1 3-PT; Becca Rostad 5 P, 1 3-PT; Amelia Torgerson 4 P.
MINNEOTA (67)
Grace Hennen 3 P, 1 3-PT; McKenzie Tolk 4 P; Natalee Rolbiecki 21 P, 1 3-PT; Abby Hennen 21 P, 3 3-PT; Abby Rost 9 P, 2 3-PT; Ireland Stassen 5 P, 1 3-PT; Jeren Rost 5 P, 1 3-PT.
Halftime: MINN 43, HOU 15.
Free throws: HOU 3-6, MINN 3-7.
Three-point goals: HOU 3, MINN 9.

Pat has been a Post Bulletin sports reporter since 1994. He covers Rochester John Marshall football, as well as a variety of other southeastern Minnesota football teams. Among my other southeastern Minnesota high school beats are girls basketball, boys and girls tennis, boys and girls track and field, high school and American Legion baseball, volleyball, University of Minnesota sports (on occasion) and the Timberwolves (on occasion). Readers can reach Pat at 507-285-7723 or pruff@postbulletin.com.
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