Three different arenas. Three different foes. Third place. And No. 3 earned a spot on the State 4A all-tournament team.
Not too shabby for the St. Michael-Albertville girls’ basketball team, who suffered its worst offensive half of basketball in a state semifinal game that, for 20 minutes, looked like it could have been one for the ages. STMA rebounded from that 48-30 loss to Eastview on Thursday with an outstanding effort against Shakopee Saturday, earning third place with a the win over the Sabres, 60-46.
The Knights, of course, opened tournament play with a convincing win over Centennial, 66-53, to earn its first-ever tournament win at the 4A level.
“That was one thing we set at our goal,” said senior guard Bobbi Brendefur before heading down to Target Center for the opening round, Tuesday, against the Cougars. “This group feels like it just has something a little extra. We think we can get that done.”
With that win out of the way, the Knights wanted to prove a couple of things in the semis: they “belonged,” and they deserved another shot at No. 1 Hopkins.
After an outstanding defensive first half, STMA definitely proved the former. Lizzy Heil scrapped for steals, Kitri Zezza found seams for lay-up and Brendefur canned two jumpers early to pace STMA to an early lead.
But as the second half unfolded, the Lightning found their inside game, turning to center Samantha Trammel, who found her range with jumpers in the lane, leading all scorers with 20 points and snagging 12 rebounds.
“We’re at a disadvantage when you go up against a team with size, because we’re asking some long, athletic girls to play bigger than they really are,” coach Kent Hamre said, referring to Elk River’s Abi Scheid. His sentiment was applicable again in the State 4A semis; Trammel and Scheid are similar players in size, but Trammel’s experience and footwork proved to be the difference. STMA couldn’t find an answer on the defensive end for the Lightning senior.
On the offensive end, the Knights couldn’t have been colder. STMA scored two points in the first 10 minutes, shot 8 percent for the half, and were outscored 27-9 in the second half.
Rae Johnson, an all-conference mention at guard for STMA, was missing for the Knights due to illness.
Despite all that, the Knights were within eight points several times of the defending champs, and even had a possession where they could have cut it to five. Instead, guard Madison Guebert of Eastview, the Player of the Year in the East Metro, scored four straight points on an “off night” for her, and stretched the EHS lead back out to 12.
Third Place Game
STMA looked to be in the doldrums again early, offensively, as Shakopee broke out to an 8-2 lead, but the Knights found their grove in the midsection of the first half, using its defense to convert to offense and spurt out a 10-0 run, giving them a six point lead at the half.
STMA sophomore Rae Johnson was back in the fold for the Knights, after missing Thursday night’s game due to illness. Johnson, who serves as a catalyst on the floor for Hamre’s team, was key in the STMA run that spanned the latter part of the first half and early moments of the second, as STMA built a 10 point lead.
“We’ve got a lot of girls we can go to and have them take charge. Lizzy does a great job at that when asked. Rae’s a leader on the floor. Bobbi is the team’s true leader. So the girls can turn a lot of places for that.”
“We can all take charge,” Johnson said. “That does give us advantage. Each of us kind of brings something a little different. Bobbi does it with her intensity. Lizzy’s going to hustle. We all have something to give to the team.”
Johnson returned with 14 points, but it was Brendefur’s 19 that led STMA. Syd Tracy had 12 points and 8 rebounds, re-establishing herself inside against the Sabres.
STMA finishes the season 27-4. It’s the first time the Knights have picked up hardware in the 4A class, last winning the State 3A championship in 2009.