Vikings coast into 3A championship
The third time's a charm. Minneota and Tracy-Milroy-Balaton will meet for a third time this season with the winner heading to the Class A state girls basketball tournament next week.
Top-seeded Minneota upended No. 6 MACCRAY, which had upset the No. 2 and No. 3 seeded teams in the Section 3A-North tournament, 58-37 to capture the North half title.
TMB, meanwhile, ran past Southwest Christian 52-36 to win the South half. Minneota and TMB will square off at 5 p.m. Friday, March 11 at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall for the Section 3A championship.
"We need to run the court like we did tonight," said senior forward Natalee Rolbiecki when asked what the Vikings will need to do against TMB. "We can't let their press get to us like the last time we played."
Against MACCRAY, the Vikings fell behind 8-2 with Ella Bourne hitting a pair of three-pointers, and 11-4 when Elsie Sumner drained a triple with 13:26 left in the first half.
The Vikings then shifted into high gear and outscored the Wolverines 28-7 the rest of the half. Rolbiecki had 12 of her game-high 24 points in the first half, many off fast-break feeds from senior guard McKenzie Tolk.
"We got back to what was working for us on offense before," said Rolbiecki. "We like to run the floor and control the tempo."
Kennedi Jurrens, a senior reserve post, has been playing her best basketball of the season over the past three games. She matched a season high with 11 points against MACCRAY, hitting 5 of 7 shots from the floor, as well as grabbing six rebounds.
"Yeah, I seem to be playing better than I was," she responded, when asked. "I'm just trying to play harder and be more aggressive.
Jurrens saw more playing time as she continued to excel in the post.
"If it's going well, you roll with it," said Minneota coach Chad Johnston about Jurrens' extended minutes. "Kennedi has been playing well at both ends. She had a big game against Lakeview (in the quarterfinals when she also had 11 points off the bench), too."
Over the team's first 26 games, Jurrens averaged three points per game. She is averaging 10 ppg over the last three playoff games.
"I just show up and play hard," she said with a laugh.
MACCRAY started the second half much like they did in the first half, scoring the first five points. Minneota then went on a 9-0 run for a 41-23 lead and the rout was on.
Tolk has also been playing her best down the stretch. The deft point guard dished out seven assists, made six steals, grabbed six rebounds and scored five points in a stellar all-around game. Senior post Jeren Rost had a team-high seven rebounds to go along with six points. McKenna Yost hit the team's lone three-pointer and finished with four points and four rebounds. Junior forward Ireland Stassen added four points, three rebounds and two steals.
No one reached double digits in scoring for the Wolverines. Ella Bourne led the way with nine points, all on three-pointers. Brielle Janssen and Gabrielle Randt had eight points apiece and Sumner finished with seven.
In the last meeting with TMB, Minneota had difficulty with the Panthers' press and had 16 first-half turnovers while falling behind by as many as 27 points. The Vikings then fought back to close within one point before succumbing down the stretch.
"We can't get down like that again," said Johnston. "We struggled with their press and they threw a bunch of different defenses at us. The main thing is we have to take care of the ball."
Minneota 58, MACCRAY 37
MACCRAY..........................................................18 19 - 37
Minneota............................................................32 26 - 58
Field goal shooting (good-attempts-pct.): MACCRAY 14-for-42, 33.3 percent. Minneota 24-for-48, 50.0 percent ... 3-point shooting (good-attempts-pct.): MACCRAY 5-for-17, 29.4 percent. Minneota 1-for-12, 8.3 percent ... Rebounds: MACCRAY 22, Minneota 36.
MACCRAY Individual Statistics
Scoring (fgm-fga ftm-fta pts): Annie Bourne 1-2 0-0 3, Ella Bourne 3-14 0-0 9, Brielle Janssen 2-7 4-8 8, Brynn Lozinski 1-2 0-0 2, Gabrielle Randt 4-7 0-0 8, Elsie Sumner 3-7 0-0 7, Sydney Thein 0-3 0-0 0 ... 3-pointers: E.Bourne 3, A.Bourne 1, Sumner 1 ... Rebound leader: Janssen 6 ... Assist leader: E.Bourne 3 ... Steal leader: Randt 3, E. Bourne 3.
Minneota Individual Statistics
Scoring (fgm-fga ftm-fta pts): Natalee Rolbiecki 9-12 6-10 24, Jeren Rost 3-8 0-2 6, McKenzie Tolk 2-4 1-4 5, McKenna Yost 1-4 1-2 4, Ireland Stassen 2-5 0-0 4, Grace Hennen 0-4 0-0 0, Kennedi Jurrens 5-7 1-3 11, Kenadi Arndt 1-2 0-0 2, Dakoda Hennen 0-0 0-0 0, Emma Bottelberghe 0-0 0-0 0, Morgan Moorse 0-0 0-0 0, Faith Myhre 1-2 0-0 2... 3-pointers: Yost 1 ... Rebounds: Rost 7, Jurrens 6, Tolk 6, Arndt 4, Yost 4, Rolbiecki 3, G.Hennen 3, Stassen 3 ... Assists: Tolk 7, Jurrens 3, Yost 2, Rolbiecki 1, G.Hennen 1 ... Steals: Tolk 6, Rolbiecki 2, Stassen 2, Arndt 1, Jurrens 1, Rost 1, Yost 1