Girls Basketball State Tournament begins four-day run
Posted: Tuesday, March 15, 2022 - 8:54 PM
BROOKLYN CENTER, Minn. --- Next up during the Minnesota State High School League’s run of winter state tournaments is Girls Basketball which begins its four-day event on Wednesday, March 16, 2022. Quarterfinal matchups in four enrollment classes will be held on March 16 and 17 at Williams Arena and the Maturi Pavilion on the University of Minnesota campus.
Semifinals will be played on Thursday and Friday followed by Championship Saturday when four title games are played. The semifinals and championship games will be broadcast live on 45TV and streamed live at www.prep45.com
Consolation bracket games will be played at Concordia (St. Paul).
Here is a look at the quarterfinal matchups in each of the enrollment classes.
· Minneota (26-4) vs. No. 1 Mountain Iron-Buhl (27-3) --- Minneota is the defending small-school champion and also claimed a crown in 2019. The Vikings are used to winning and are a formidable unseeded threat to top-seeded Mountain Iron-Buhl. MIB head coach Jeff Buffetta continues to pull double duty as head coach of the school’s boys basketball team as well. The Rangers have been top-ranked all season and have been suffocating opponents on defense. Mountain Iron-Buhl loves to shoot three-pointers.
· No. 5 Hayfield (31-0) vs. No. 4 Cass Lake-Bena (28-2) --- Hayfield is looking to continue its undefeated season. Sophomore point guard Kristen Watson us a 1,000-point scorer. Senior forward Aine Stasko and sophomore forward Natalie Beaver also supply scoring punch. Cass Lake-Bena is a returning veteran-laden team with depth. Senior guard Taryn Frazer, freshman guard Gabrielle Fineday and senior forward Amira LaDuke lead the Panthers.
· United Christian Academy (23-4) vs. No. 2 Mayer Lutheran (26-4) --- United Christian Academy, a first-year member of the Minnesota Classic Athletic Association, is making its state tournament debut. The Thunder are on an 11-game winning streak, including three during the Section 4A playoffs. Mayer Lutheran won the Class A crown during the volleyball state tournament in November and are looking to match that feat on a different court. The Crusaders are long and athletic and seemingly can score at will.
· Nevis (19-8) vs. No. 3 Hancock (27-1) --- Nevis was the No. 3 seed in the Section 5A postseason and had to defeat three consecutive “B’s” to earn a trip to the state tournament: Browerville, Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa and Braham. The Tigers are on a four-game winning streak since a loss to Swanville in the regular-season finale. Hancock was the first Class A champion in 1997 when the current four-class format was unveiled. The Owls are a daunting No. 3 seed with a dynamic starting lineup that features two sophomores and two freshmen.
· Montevideo (25-3) vs. No. 1 Providence Academy (26-4) --- Montevideo is a first-time state tournament entrant. Junior 6-foot-3 center Avery Koenen is the go-to player for the Thunder Hawks. Freshman guard Teagan Epema and junior guard Tenley Epema control the perimeter play. Providence Academy, the Class AA runner-up in 2021, is on a 15-game winning streak The Lions’ only losses to Minnesota teams were to Class AAA’s St. Paul Como Park and Becker and Minnehaha Academy midway through the season. But Providence Academy reversed that result later in the regular season. Eighth-grade guard Maddyn Greenway reached the 1,000-point milestone this season.
· No. 5 Rochester Lourdes (21-7) vs. No. 4 Albany (23-5) --- Rochester Lourdes represents strong Section 1AA. Senior Caroline Adamson is the point guard that runs the Eagles’ offense. Forward Ella Hopkins, a 6-foot-3 junior, is a force in the middle, but can also shoot three-pointers. Albany is the defending Class AA champion. The Huskies had a loss to Sauk Centre during the regular season, but reversed that result n the Section 6AA championship game.
· Pequot Lakes (29-1) vs. No. 2 Fergus Falls (24-5) --- With just one loss on the season, unseeded Pequot Lakes feels like it has something to prove. The Patriots look to get three-point attempts and how to get to the free throw line. Sophomore guard Kelsi Martini is a 1,000-point scorer. The last loss for Fergus Falls was a setback to Class AAA’s Becker on Feb. 5. Since, the Otters are on a 10-game winning streak. Senior guard Ellie Colbeck, a South Dakota commit, has scored more than 2,000 career points.
· Lake Crystal Wellcome Memorial (26-4) vs. No. 3 Minnehaha Academy (24-5) --- Lake Crystal Wellcome Memorial had an impressive four-game run in winning the Section 2AA crown. Junior guard Olivia Harazin is a smooth shooter and junior guard Lauren Cooper are the Knights’ two primary weapons. Minnehaha Academy, the Class AA champion in 2019, is making its 15th state tournament trip since 2001. While the Redhawks lost three of four to close out the regular season, they have since won four in a row and are positioned to perhaps make a championship run. Freshman guard Addison Mack topped the 1,000-point mark this season.
· Austin (24-5) vs. No. 1 Becker (23-4) --- Austin is expected to pose a serious challenge to the top seeded Bulldogs. The Packers have a strong starting five featuring senior twin guards Hope and Emma Dudycha and junior forward Olivia Walsh. Becker is a state tournament veteran that is fun to watch and a team that knows how to shoot the three-pointer. Junior Maren Westin and junior Danielle Nuest lead the Bulldogs’ attack.
· No. 5 Mankato East (24-4) vs. No. 4 Benilde-St. Margaret’s (23-6) --- Mankato East split two games with Austin during the Big Nine Conference season and also had a convincing victory over traditional power Marshal in the Section 2AAA final. Senior guard Mackenzie Schweim and senior Lexi Karge lead a strong Cougars’ squad. Benilde-St. Margaret’s is seeking its first Class AAA championship since 2010. Sophomore guard Olivia Olson is the No. 3-ranked player in the nation for her class. The Red Knights are on a six-game winning streak entering the state tournament.
· Grand Rapids (25-3) vs. No. 2 St. Paul Como Park (21-6) --- Grand Rapids makes its second consecutive trip to the Twin Cities for the state tournament. The Thunderhawks had a signature win over Mahtomedi early in the season that set the tone for a dominant run leading to a state tournament berth. Junior guard Tryn Hamling runs the offense that often looks to go inside to sophomore center Jessica Lofstrom. St. Paul Como Park is attempting to become the first St. Paul City Conference team since Central in 2008 to win a state championship. Senior guard Ronnie Porter is the catalyst for a Cougars’ squad that is fast, quick and tenacious on defense.
· Detroit Lakes (14-12) vs. No. 3 Totino-Grace (20-8) --- Detroit Lakes makes its first appearance since 2009. The Lakers opened the season 1-7, but later found their groove and defeated teams that had previously defeated them. That included key postseason victories over Alexandria and Willmar. Totino-Grace took some losses during the Northwest Suburban Conference season, but that merely prepared the Eagles for the postseason. Senior guard Leah Dengerud leads the Eagles on both sides of the court.
· Lakeville North (20-9) vs. No. 1 Hopkins (23-1) --- Lakeville North, a longtime state tournament entrant, is one of three schools from the South Suburban Conference to be in the big-school field. Rosemount and Shakopee are the others. The Panthers lost twice to each of those opponents. Trinity Wilson, a 6-foot-2 sophomore center, is a powerful weapon in the low post. Hopkins had its state-record winning streak snapped in last season’s Class AAAA semifinal. The Royals’ starting five is multi-talented with Division I recruits. Hopkins has not lost to a Minnesota team. Some basketball experts believe this Hopkins team is worthy of being in the conversation about being the best Minnesota girls basketball team of all time.
· No. 5 White Bear Lake (20-9) vs. No. 4 Rosemount (24-5) --- White Bear Lake is on a seven-game winning streak since a late-season slump created a three-game losing skid. Two of the playoff victories came against East Ridge and Stillwater Area, teams they had previously lost to. Senior guard Nevaeh Hughes and senior guard Lauren Eckerle are the Bears’ go-to players. Rosemount made a postseason surge in 2021 that resulted in a runner-up finish to Chaska. The Irish opened the season with three consecutive losses, but consider who they were to: St. Michael-Albertville, Hopkins and Minnetonka. The Irish don’t shy away from the top competition. Junior guard Nicole O’Neill is a sharp-shooter.
· Roseville Area (21-8) vs. No. 2 Shakopee (26-3) --- Roseville qualified for the state tournament for the ninth time and first since 2018. Junior guard Drew Johnston is a key component to Roseville’s attack and shoots the three-pointer well. Shakopee was the No. 4 seed in the Section 2AAAA playoffs behind Chaska, Eden Prairie and Minnetonka. This current group of seniors won the state tournament as seventh-graders during the traveling league circuit. Coach Juan Mitchell has had his team in the state tournament before and they know what it takes to succeed.
· Centennial (19-10) vs. No. 3 St. Michael-Albertville (21-7) --- Centennial moved from Section 5AAAA to 7AAAA and most in its new section knew the path to a state tournament berth would go through Centennial. The Cougars found their stride about midway through the season, going 16-2 since. Senior guard Camille Cummings can play both the perimeter and penetrate in the lane. St. Michael-Albertville has a tradition of success that can’t be overlooked. Setbacks to Hopkins, Wayzata, Eden Prairie and Minnetonka during the Lake Conference schedule are termed “quality losses.” Junior guard Tessa Johnson leads the Knights’ attack.