Cooper coach Kiara Buford was right at home in Williams Arena. She was even sporting a maroon outfit.
“I was looking for a little Williams Arena luck,” the former Gophers star said after the No. 1-ranked Hawks’ 58-51 victory over Alexandria in the Class 3A quarterfinals Wednesday. “I actually thought about it last night for the first time. What do I wear?”
Buford played for the Gophers following a stellar high school career at St. Paul Central; her team won the Class 4A state championship 10 years ago. She made state tournament appearances as a prep player in both Williams Arena and next door at what is now called the Maturi Pavilion.
“I was anxious. It felt really weird,” Buford said. “It’s always different when your shoes don’t match their shoes. But this is also an extension of my playing career.”
Third time just fine
After her team defeated Maple Grove 68-66 in overtime, Lakeville North coach Shelly Clemons admitted that she preferred to play top-seeded and undefeated Eastview in the Class 4A semifinals, even though the Lightning defeated the Panthers twice during the regular season.
“We’re just going to go at ’em,” Clemons said. “They’re a big-time rival in our conference and we know each other so well. There’s nobody else I’d rather play in this game. We know we can play with them.
“The way the bracket shook out, we’re very happy with it.”
Lee dominates in her team’s state debut
Byron’s Lexi Glynn doesn’t feel one game can sum up the amazing range of contributions made by teammate Ayoka Lee, but Lee’s quarterfinal performance was quite a showcase.
Lee, a 6-5 forward who signed with Division I Kansas State, made Byron’s first state tournament trip memorable. She posted game-highs with 26 points, 17 rebounds and seven blocked shots. Lee dominated the first half and took undefeated Sauk Centre out of its game.
“Lee is a tremendous player,” Mainstreeters’ coach Scott Bergman said. “Big parts of our game are scoring in the post and our guards getting to the rim. Those things weren’t really happening in the first half.”
Miss Basketball list
Eleven finalists for Miss Basketball finalists were announced Wednesday on Twitter. They are Carmen Backes, Chisago Lakes; Monika Czinano, Watertown-Mayer; Kristie Fett, Lyle/Pacelli; Sam Halby, Moorhead; Heaven Hamling, Grand Rapids; Morgan Hill, Minneapolis South; Jaclyn Jarnot, Maranatha Christian; Ayoka Lee, Byron ; Sydney Lodermeier, Goodhue; Maesyn Thiesen, Sauk Centre, and Megan Walstad, Eastview