A pair of losses to the Maple Grove Crimson in the Section 8-4A Championship game had Kent Hamre and his St. Michael-Albertville girls’ basketball team thinking about a little bit of revenge last Thursday in Monticello.
Twice the Crimson had celebrated on the Magic’s floor. Twice at the Knights’ expense.
STMA had pounded MGHS earlier in the season – actually winning by 20. But everyone in Monticello knew that wouldn’t be the case in a tournament championship. Not with another bid to the State 4A tourney on the line.
“You have that on your side, but it doesn’t mean anything once that game starts,” Hamre would say later. “Neither does their past two Section Championships. These are different teams now.”
Maple Grove looked like it wanted to make it three in a row early – rolling out to the 17-6 lead. But the first of two huge runs for the Knights in the game made it 17-17 midway through the first half. Then, once STMA took the lead, it never really looked back.
Yes, the Crimson battled, cutting the Knights lead to six points late in the second half, but another run – this one 13-2 in favor of the blue and gold – put the game on ice, and the Knights cruised late to a 70-52 win.
“Those teams that came before, they’re always the reason we are here. The tradition we have. It’s great to keep that going,” Hamre said.
The Knights, who faced two of the top teams in the state four times thanks to their Lake Conference schedule, will be the No. 3 seed. STMA’s highest finish at a State 4A tournament is third, ironically.
It’s a blend of youth and experience for Hamre leading this 2020 Tournament team. Young Tessa Johnson – yes, from THAT Johnson family (her sister is at Iowa State) is a freshman averaging more than 18 points a game. She’s the perfect compliment to senior McKenzie Kramer, who is leading the squad in points, assists and minutes logged. That one-two punch is joined by Vanessa Alexander, who led the teams in rebounds.
The Knights will square off with Lakeville North in the opening round on Wednesday, with a 4 p.m. tip at Williams Arena. STMA and LNHS were set to square off back in January, but the game was canceled due to weather.