Tesha Buck was on the bench, the result of five fouls. As was Macy Kelly. And McKenna Schaffer. Red Wing’s three senior starters watched nervously, hoping and believing that their less utilized — but clearly no less important — teammates would be able to hold off a desperate Richfield rally.
They did, just barely, escaping with a 61-59 victory over top-seeded Richfield in the Class 3A semifinals Thursday at Target Center. It sent the Wingers to a championship game for the first time in team history.
Showing composure in a frantic situation, Red Wing converted seven of 10 free throws in the final two minutes. For the game, the Wingers made 27 of 36 free throw attempts.
“We always talk about how no one player is more important than any other,” Red Wing coach Dave Muelken said. “It showed out there. We had everybody step up when we needed them.”
It wasn’t just Red Wing that was forced to battle attrition. Richfield’s starting guard Sierra Ford-Washington, the Spartans’ second-leading scorer, hurt her knee halfway through the first half and never returned. Not long after, Richfield’s star guard, Jessica January, was forced to sit down with three fouls.
With January and Ford-Washington on the bench, Red Wing gained the first significant advantage of the game, outscoring Richfield 11-3 in the final 3:28 of the first half for a 35-28 halftime lead.
In the second half, fouls mounted for both teams. Buck, Red Wing’s smooth guard, picked up her fifth foul with 3:01 remaining in regulation. Kelly picked up hers less than two minutes later. Red Wing led by three points, 54-51, at the time and had more than 3,000-career points on the bench.
“I was tough, but I had faith in my teammates,” said Buck, who still managed to lead the Wingers with 18 points. “I knew they could handle adversity.”
January nearly brought the Spartans back by herself, scoring their final 12 points. But Red Wing’s proficiency at the foul line never allowed Richfield to get closer than two points. January finished with a game-high 29 points.
“It was all about free throws,” Richfield coach Scott Stadem said. “We gave them 36 of them. We put them on the line and they finished.
De La Salle 67, Monticello 42
Faith Johnson Patterson is a coach, mentor, mother hen and even, at times, a taskmaster. And this year, add scientist to the DeLaSalle coach’s resume.
The Islanders’ convincing 67-42 victory over Monticello in the Class 3A semifinals was the product of tinkering this season with lineups that include two future Division I players. Her search for the right combinations has the team set to play for its third consecutive state championship.
“Sometimes it was a little hard for [the players] to grasp,” said Johnson Patterson, who will be coaching for her eighth state championship Saturday. She won five while at Minneapolis North. “But I played a lot of girls with a purpose. We were teaching them what it takes.”
The recipe displayed Thursday included typically strong games from superstars Tyseanna Johnson (15 points, eight rebounds, five assists) and Allina Starr (17 points, four rebounds, seven assists), a large dose of athleticism and contributions from others at key moments.
Thursday, the latter came from sophomore Patiance Griffin, who knocked down six three-pointers en route to a game-high 18 points.