It’s been a bit of a wait for St. Michael-Albertville coach Kent Hamre and his coaching staff, but the smiles on their faces as the clock ran down Tuesday afternoon at Target Center showed it was worth it all the while.
Perhaps all they needed was a bit of Irish luck. Or a plucky girl on defense.
The Knights outlasted Centennial 66-53 in the Class AAAA quarterfinal Tuesday, advancing to the “big school” semifinals for the first time in school history. It assures Hamre and his squad a few things: a trophy, a televised game, and a trip over to Williams Arena Thursday night to take on Eastview at 8 p.m.
“It’s exciting,” Hamre said of the prospect of being seeded No. 3 and advancing to a semifinal. “We’ve had teams before where I thought we might get the seeding because of our schedule and we didn’t, and this year we were rewarded for it. Every team at this stage is a champion – they’ve won their section. So there aren’t going to be easy games now.”
STMA found that out in the early going, as Centennial used its inside-out game to build an 18-12 lead. But the Knights closed the first half on a 15-4 run, and stretched out to a five-point lead at the half.
The defense of Kitri Zezza and mid-range shooting of Sydney Tracy helped stretch the Knights lead to 10, but the Cougars would come roaring back, and sneak within a point midway through the second half.
That’s when the Knights buckled down, as a group, defensively. Turnovers led to fast-break points for the Knights, and eventually the blue and gold build an 18-5 run to stretch out to another double-digit lead. It would be too much for Centennial to overcome.
Jordyn Walker led the Knights with 11 rebounds and had 10 points, many coming on second-chance opportunities. Tracy, who used defense to spur the Knights in the Section 8 Championship game over No. 5 Elk River, used offense Tuesday to lead STMA with 18 points.
The Knights’ backcourt of Rae Johnson and Bobbi Brendefur, so huge in that finals game, had just 14 points, but used defense – with Zezza – to turn the tide in the second half.
How they match up:
No. 3 STMA and No. 2 Eastview haven’t squared off this season. Both have faced Lakeville North and come away with wins, and both have lost by about 12 points to Hopkins, the top seed in the tournament. STMA lost to Eden Prairie (a game Hamre called one of his team’s lackluster efforts for the season), a team Eastview rolled by more than 20 points.