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.
“That’s great to see,” said Tyseanna Johnson. “That’s a boost to us. It shows that we’re ready.”
Hopkins 73, Osseo 50
Hopkins more than made up for a first-half scare. The Royals overwhelmed Osseo in the second half for a convincing 73-50 victory in Thursday night’s Class 4A girls’ basketball state semifinal. The turnaround is what Hopkins needed.
The Royals survived though three halves in the first two rounds of the tournament. They even trailed early in the semifinal. Then the group figured it out by following the example of Erin O’Toole and earned a third straight trip to the championship game.
“I had a lot of energy. I was shooting better and had a lot of confidence,” O’Toole said after scoring 16 points and rebounding eight. “I was feeding off [my teammates], too.”
O’Toole had 12 of Hopkins’ 31 first-half points and was the Royals’ answer when nothing else was working well. The 6-4 center had a five-inch height advantage over Osseo’s biggest player. The difference meant the Orioles’ would hit a brick wall several times throughout the night. Three of O’Toole’s five blocks consisted of Osseo’s shot going directly into O’Toole’s hands and its shooter to the floor.
"It’s hard cause she’s a big body,” Osseo’s Janay Morton (14 points) said. “And a lot of [Hopkins’ comeback] had to do with Nia Coffey finishing.”
Phillis Webb had 13 points and Ayo Porte 10 for Osseo. Hopkins Nia Hollie had 13.
Cosgriff said he loved his star forward, Coffey, in the second half. She scored 16 of 20 points after halftime and made a statement with a steal and full-court dash for her first two of the half.
The first half was a different story as Osseo attempted to run with Hopkins. The game plan that most teams in the state consider impossible had varying results for the Orioles, but kept them in the game and within six points, 31-25, at the break.
“We knew we could run with them. When they got tired they got lazy on D. But when we got tired our offense slipped away.”
Bloomington Kennedy’s swarming defense was too much for Eastview’s striking offense. The Eagles held the Lightning 30 points under its average and limited the state’s best three-point shooter for a 43-39 victory in Thursday night’s Class 4A semifinals at Target Center.
Kennedy will meet two-time defending state champion Hopkins in Saturday’s title game.
“We really pushed our defense,” Eagles’ Jade Martin said. “Kenisha [Bell] just stepped up and put tons of pressure on [Guebert] and that’s what we needed to win the game.”
Ada-Borup 70, Maranatha Christian 53
Minneota 60, Mountain Iron-Buhl 53
DAVID LA VAQUE
Faribault Bethlehem Acad. 65, Upsala 51
“I thought it would be a close game all the way through so I’m really proud of the girls for coming out and executing that way,” Bethlehem Academy coach Tammy Filzen said. “We didn’t make a lot of adjustments at halftime but enough to get us solid in what we wanted defensively.”
Said Upsala coach Paul Pelzer: “Falling behind to a team with that much talent is tough to get back.”
“We told her, ‘You’re going to have some opportunities inside. We want you to be strong, go right up with it and finish,’” Filzen said. She did and that was a huge difference for us.”
Upsala’s Kaelin Smieja led all scorers with 23 points and tied a state tournament record with seven three-pointers.
DAVID LA VAQUE
Win-E-Mac 59, Mankato Loyola 49