Mountain Iron-Buhl seniors Chelsea Mason and Mya Buffetta are state tournament regulars. They are six-year veterans of a team that has made seven consecutive appearances, including a trip to the Class 1A championship game in 2012.
Mason and Buffetta will get one final chance to bring a championship back to the Iron Range after defeating state tournament rival Maranatha 79-65 in the Class 1A semifinals. The victory Friday at Williams Arena was a salve for a soul-crushing, last-second overtime loss to Maranatha in the 2016 semifinals.
"Deep down, we wanted to get revenge," said Mason, a career-3,000 point scorer.
"That was heartbreaking," Buffetta added.
Mountain Iron-Buhl let 36-26 at halftime and bumped the lead to 43-29 early in the second half before Maranatha made a run. The Mustangs (23-8) cut the lead to three with 10 minutes left but drew no closer.
"I can't lie, those thoughts [of 2016] crept in a little bit," Mountain Iron-Buhl coach Jeff Buffetta said. "But we've played Maranatha so many times over the last six years, and every game is like this. One of us is going to get up and the other is going to battle back."
Mason and Buffetta each scored 18 points for Mountain Iron-Buhl (31-1). Maranatha's Sami Payne led all scorers with 31 points.
Mason said she relishes one more chance to play in a championship game.
"I'm really excited because it's been a long time since we've been there," she said.
And what does she recall from the previous championship game?
"We lost to Maranatha then, too."
Goodhue 70, Cromwell-Wright 48: After Goodhue survived a rugged regular season playing against larger schools in the Hiawatha Valley Conference, the state tournament offers little that the Wildcats haven't seen before.
The defending 1A state champions (27-4) rolled over Cromwell-Wright, using a seemingly endless supply of exceptional athletes to pressure the perimeter and shut down Cromwell's vaunted three-point-shooting game.
The Cardinals (26-5), who made 13 of 25 three-point attempts in the quarterfinals, made only six of 30 on Friday.
Live by the long ball, die by the long ball.
"All five playoff games before this, we shot between 45 and 55 percent from behind the arc," Cromwell coach Jeff Gronner said. "In the first half, we hit two of 17. We were shooting at such a high level, then we come here and boom."
Goodhue coach Josh Wieme said the reason was his team's ability to harass shooters.
"Our kids we flying around the floor,'' Wieme said. "They knew they had a lot of ground to cover around that arc, and they did a wonderful job of it."
The Wildcats offense did what it had all season — race up and down the court and wear down the opponent. The Cromwell players agreed that it was the one game in which they were not the faster team on the floor.
"We're not used to that," guard Chelsea Swatek said.
Center Sydney Lodermeier, Goodhue's physical presence inside, said the Wildcats show no fear at this time of year, the result of the night-to-night grind in their conference,
"We play in games and scenarios all season that are prepping us for things like this,'' she said. "At this point, we're comfortable being on the spot."