As a free-throw left her hand late in Saturday’s Class 1A girls’ basketball state championship game, Minneota’s Emily Stienessen thought the ball was on the mark.
As it rattled off the rim, teammate Taylor Reiss vowed to make the ball hers.
Reiss’s putback layup became the key play down the stretch as the Vikings defeated Ada-Borup 61-51 for their first state title ever.
“I wanted that rebound so I went after it,” said Reiss, who despite releasing her shot in midair from a reclined position, “felt like it was pretty automatic.”
That feeling best describes Reiss’s afternoon at Target Center. Reiss, a 5-10 forward, led all scorers with 30 points and also grabbed 12 rebounds. She helped the taller Vikings (30-2) outrebound Ada-Borup 40-20 and hold a 20-4 edge in second-chance points.
Said Cougars coach Dave Smart, “We get that rebound and we’re down three instead of five with about a minute and a half to go. That was definitely a back-breaker.”
Ada-Borup (28-4) built a 29-27 halftime lead, scoring 13 points off Viking turnovers. But Minneota, losers to Ada-Borup in last season’s state quarterfinals, took better care of the ball after halftime.
The Cougars’ adjustments were less successful.
“We said we can’t give up this many offensive rebounds and expect to win the game,” Smart said. “It definitely came to fruition.”
Stienessen said she went from disappointed to delighted as Reiss “jumped right over both of their girls and put it back up.”
Reiss was not finished. Fouled on the next Vikings’ possession, she hit both free throws in the bonus. Reiss and fellow sophomores Stienessen and Payton Boerboom closed out the victory by combining for nine points on free throws.
“I was really proud of our sophomores,” junior forward Molly Hennen said. “Last year as a sophomore I was feeling a little nervous in the first round and today was for the state championship.”