Fergus Falls erased a painful memory Wednesday. After being upset in the Class 3A state quarterfinals a year ago, the Otters won 61-52 victory over Kasson-Mantorville this time at Mariucci Arena.
Senior guard Bailey Strand led Fergus Falls with 23 points, as the Otters (29-1) led Kasson-Mantorville (25-6) most of the game.
For Fergus Falls, the victory came just over a year after a 79-78 double-overtime loss to Monticello. The Otters were undefeated going into that state quarterfinal but lost a 15-point second-half lead.
Fergus Falls' motto this season was "unfinished business," and coach Brad Strand projected the score of last year's upset on the team's scoreboard sporadically throughout the season.
"It's really great motivation for us," Bailey Strand said. "We didn't want to let it happen again."
Bailey Strand, the coach's daughter, ensured there would be no letdown Wednesday, scoring 17 points in the first half, including Fergus Falls' first 11 points. She helped the Otters cope with the loss of their second-leading scorer, Anna Monke, who played just two minutes in the first half before picking up three fouls.
Fergus Falls led just 31-29 at halftime, partly because of Kasson-Mantorville's 26-15 rebounding advantage. But Monke returned in the second half and anchored a Fergus Falls zone that allowed just two field goals in the first eight minutes of the half.
The zone stifled Kasson-Mantorville's offense and helped the Otters build their first double-digit lead with 7:05 left. Fergus Falls led by no less than seven the rest of the way.
Full-court press works
Marshall 68, Chisago Lakes 44: The Tigers didn't stop Chisago Lakes star Bryanna Fernstrom from reaching 2,000 career points, but they held her in check in the second Class 3A quarterfinal.
Marshall coach Dan Westby said the team made a pact to hold Fernstrom to fewer than 12 points — the number she needed to reach her milestone.
The 6-5 senior scored 24, but only six of those came in the first half, when Marshall used a 17-2 run to take a 41-21 lead.
"We were able to limit her number of touches," Westby said. "That was a great defensive effort by our kids inside."
The No. 3-seeded Tigers (29-1) used a full-court press to speed up the game, force turnovers and keep the ball out of Fernstrom's hands.
Westby said the team knew the press was the only way it would stop Fernstrom, who averaged 26 points and 13 rebounds this season.
Marshall's offense was more of a team effort, as five players scored at least eight points. Senior Hannah Bennett led the Tigers with 13 points, and senior Kenzie Beekman added 11.
The Tigers scored 24 points off 25 turnovers by the unseeded Wildcats (22-7). Marshall used its athleticism and anticipation to deflect passes and double-team Chisago Lakes' ball handlers.
"We've always relied on our … full-court press," Beekman said. "That's our offense, too, so that's how we usually score."