St. Michael-Albertville knocked off a Section 8-4A opponent and one of the top teams in the state of Minnesota with a pair of victories last week, getting coach Kent Hamre and the Knights some much deserved respect as they head into one of the top match-ups of the regular season tonight (Tuesday) in Hopkins.
Rae Johnson and Bobbi Brendefur led the Knights in a run-away win over St. Cloud Tech, while the Knights’ defense shut down No. 4 Lakeville North to stake the Knights to a 2-0 record as they head to take on No. 2 Hopkins Royals tonight in Hopkins.
STMA 71, Tech 32
Johnson scored 20 points and the Knights forced 31 turnovers – compared to 32 points for Tech – in a rout. Brendefur added 16, and fellow senior Jordyn Walker nabbed six rebounds.
But the story was STMA’s pressure defense. The girls racked up 51 first half points, thanks to a host of steals and other Tech turnovers, and took control of the game in the early going.
“Full court pressure, steals and transition buckets made the difference,” Hamre said in his report on the game. “That gave us a quick start.”
STMA 53, Lakeville North 48
The two teams, both ranked in the Top 10 in Class 4A, met at the Breakdown Tip Off Classic, and the Knights pulled out victory by scoring the last six points of the game.
Trailing 48-47, Brendefur scored the go-ahead basket with 50 seconds left in the game, driving to the bucket for two. North would turnover the ball twice, allowing Kitri Zezza and Tracy to ice it with free-throws, creating the final margin.
After scoring at 1:17 with a free throw to take a lead, North didn’t score the rest of the contest, paving the way for the STMA comeback.
STMA held a seven-point lead in the first half, and stretched out to a five point lead to start the second half.
Tracy led all scorers with 18 points.
On to Hopkins
Always considered one of the top programs in the state, Hamre said games like tonight’s at the Royals’ home gym are “measuring sticks” for his program’s growth.
STMA has won the Section 8-4A crown twice in the last three years, and appeared in the section title game in each year since 2010. But to win a quarterfinal game – something the Knights haven’t accomplished since moving up from Class 3A – Hamre knows he has to build strength of schedule and earn confidence from his team by playing the ‘city schools.’
“That’s an advantage we have at this time of the season is to get those teams on our schedule and see how we can play at that level against those teams. It’s only going to make you more prepared for when that time comes around and you’re set to see them again,” he said.
The Knights will host Moorhead, another Section opponent, at 7:15 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 11. The freshman and JV tip off at 5:45.
STMA will head north, to Duluth, to take on the East Greyhounds at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 13.