For Orono, the No. 1 team in Class 3A, it’s pretty much a given that any list of the Spartans’ strengths will be deservedly lengthy. They’re unselfish, athletic, deep and talented. After a 70-42 quarterfinals victory over Thief River Falls, another can be added: They’re honest.
While they certainly didn’t seem nervous in dismantling a Prowlers team that entered the game with just three losses — only one to a team in Class 3A — guard Kiera Nelson admitted that the emotions were roiling under the surface before Tuesday’s game.
“Oh, we were so nervous before this game,” said Nelson, who led the team in scoring with 18 points. “We were all shaking before the game. I mean, you should be nervous before the state tournament, but once the game started, it was just another game.”
Orono coach Ellen Wiese has a reputation for preparation, putting together an in-depth scouting report before every game. The Spartans followed Tuesday’s game-plan — push the ball upcourt and play hellacious defense — to a T.
“I think everybody that got into the game played well,” Weise said. “Our strategy was to get out and run and put pressure on their bigs [Thief River Falls boasted 6-2 Madison Brekke and 6-3 Jenna Tadych in its starting lineup]. … We held a very good team to just 42 points.”
Center Meghan Mandel added 13 points for Orono (29-1). Thief River Falls, making its first state tournament appearance, was held to just 30.8 percent shooting from the floor (12-of-39) and committed 22 turnovers. The Prowlers (26-4) were led by Meleah Biermaier’s 11 points.
Marshall 65, Princeton 30: This state tournament stuff is nothing new for Marshall, and it showed in a convincing 65-30 victory over first-time entrant Princeton in the Class 3A quarterfinals.
With a lineup that is nearly intact from the 2014 team that suffered a heartbreaking triple-overtime loss to Park Center in the championship game, Marshall looked every bit like a team bent on ridding itself of some painful memories.
“We thought about that every day,” said guard Sarah Buysse, who posted a double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds. “We want the chance to redeem ourselves.”
The Tigers jumped on Princeton — also the Tigers — quickly, scoring the first nine points en route to a 42-14 halftime edge. Marshall dominated in every aspect, outrebounding Princeton 27-13, hitting six of 11 three-point attempts and holding its foe to 20.7 percent shooting (6-for-29).