St. Michael-Albertville will be looking for its first-ever win in Class 4A in its third trip in four years to the “big dance” at Target Center Tuesday, March 18.
The Knights will square off with Bloomington Kennedy at 4 p.m. from the Target Center.
The Knights, led by coach Kent Hamre, have won girls’ basketball Minnesota State High School League championships in every class, and are poised to compete with the top eight teams this season thanks to a victory over Elk River in the Section 8-Class 4A championship last Friday night in Collegeville at St. John’s University.
The Knights have been a predominant underdog at the 4A level during the state tournament. In 2012, STMA was pitted against upstart Eastview, who used that season as the start down the path to the No. 1 seed in the tournament, which they are this year.
Last year, the Knights were caught in the first round by Hopkins, who were on the tail end of their dynasty as the queens of high school basketball.
This year, STMA’s foe is Bloomington Kennedy, a solid squad from the South Conference that also features the same Eastview squad that’s this season’s team to beat. Kennedy has played Eastview close, and figures to be a tough test for the Knights as the state’s No. 3 team.
The Eagles are led by Kenisha Bell, a 20-point per game scorer in the regular season whose heroics in the Section semifinals got Kennedy to this point. Bell hit a knock-down three in the final minutes to get Kennedy past Lakeville South, who was aiming for an upset.
St. Michael has rolled through the Section Tournament to get to this point. The Knights beat Bemidji handily, holding the Lumberjacks to less than 30 point. They then fought off a pesky Rogers zone for a second half runaway, and used a late surge to fight past Elk River on Friday behind guard Rae Johnson’s 29 points, a season high.
The two teams look to be closely matched on paper. Kennedy, for example, lost to Minnetonka by eight points. STMA also lost to the Skippers by eight. In another common foe, Hopkins topped Kennedy by 10. They beat the Knights by 12.
“We’ve scheduled some of those tough teams throughout the season because we know that’s what it’s going to take to win a game at the state tournament. Our girls, at this point at playing at this level, aren’t phased by it anymore. We know some big schools will stand between us and our goals,” Hamre said.
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