3/14/2013 11:12:00 AM Wildcats going to state for second year in a row, but stymied by DeLaSalle in first round
by JEFF NORTON
Chisago Lakes 64, Grand Rapids 45 When this season began, it was branded as a rebuilding effort for the Chisago Lakes girls basketball team.
They lost a bulk of their scoring and rebounding last year in Whitney Tinjum, Zoe Hansen, Brittney Land and Annie Stenson. They were going to be too small. They were going to have a tough time replacing three of their five starters. They weren’t supposed to go back to the state tournament after their historic first appearance last year.
They didn’t care about all of that. This batch of players overcame a slow start to the season to reel off an impressive hot streak through the rest of their season, winning 19 of 21 after a 3-5 start and parlaying that success into the top seed in Section 7AAA. In the first two rounds, the Wildcats dispatched Duluth Denfeld and Hibbing handily, winning by a combined 33 points, but they figured to have a much stiffer test against second-seeded Grand Rapids.
The Thunderhawks were the previous rulers of this section, earning three out of the last four state tournament bids before Chisago Lakes showed up last year and spoiled their postseason party. In the section final on Thursday, March 7, at Duluth Denfeld High School the Wildcats used a familiar approach to beating Grand Rapids. They utilized their big three and played smothering defense on the Thunderhawks. The big three all year have been senior point guard Hannah Trandahl, junior center Bryanna Fernstrom and sophomore forward Sarah Greene. The trio is most effective when Trandahl is driving to the net and drawing the double teams away from them and then dishing the ball to either one to finish.
But, they’ve also been very effective on the fast break this year, and that was in full effect in the first half off of a number of steals. For the game, the ‘Cats had 21 swipes, six each from Greene and Sam Forslund and five from Trandahl. That bulldog defense and balanced scoring from Trandahl, Fernstrom and Greene left the Wildcats up by 10 points at halftime. The ‘Cats figured Grand Rapids would come out firing on all cylinders in the second half, and behind prolific senior scorer Kenzie Kane, they did just that. But, the Wildcats wouldn’t back down from the challenge. The big three continued to hit their baskets, but they also hit the boards with intensity. Even 5’7” Trandahl got in on the rebounding action, leading the team with seven rebounds.
Chisago Lakes began to stretch their lead and it started to become evident that they would be going to the state tournament for the second year in a row and second time overall in their history. When the ‘Cats lead stretched into the 20s, the excitement and anticipation of the celebration began, and once the final buzzer sounded, a green flood of jerseys inundated the court, leaving Grand Rapids in shambles with a 64-45 victory.
The celebration continued into the net cutting ceremony as each girl and coach was able to climb the bright red ladder to take a little piece of the game with them. Fernstrom led the Wildcats in scoring with 21 points and six rebounds. Trandahl had herself an amazing all-around game. She scored 16 points to go along with nine assists, seven rebounds and five steals. Greene had 15 points six steals and six rebounds. Forslund had only three points, but she isn’t a main offensive weapon and she did the dirty work for CL, getting six steals and five rebounds.
As a team, the ‘Cats had the aforementioned 21 steals as well as 10 offensive rebounds among their 33. They were also able to limit Kane’s supporting cast. Although they figured she would get hers, as she averages over 20 points per game, only one other girl had over seven points and that was Megan Allen’s 11. Earlier this week, on Wednesday, March 13, the Wildcats took on second-seeded DeLaSalle in the opening round of the state tournament at Williams Arena. The Islanders are 25-4 on the year. Three of their four losses have come to teams that are in the Class AAAA state tournament field. Their other loss was to the top-ranked team in Class AA.
DeLaSalle has won the last two Class AAA state championships and will be a very tough out. If the Wildcats pull off the upset, they’ll play again on Thursday, March 14 at noon at Target Center against the winner of Monticello-Fergus Falls. Regardless if they win or lose the second potential game, they’d play again on Saturday, March 16. If they were playing for the state title, they’d play at the Target Center at 6 p.m. If they would play for third place, they’d play at Concordia University at 2 p.m. There is no consolation bracket in basketball, however, so if the ‘Cats bowed out in the first round, their tournament and season is over.
DeLaSalle 73, Chisago Lakes 49 The Wildcats ran into a tough DeLaSalle squad that features two Division I recruits in the first round, and lost by 24. They 'Cats actually had trimmed the lead to five at 29-24 near the end of the first half, but a small DSL run pushed the lead back to double digits before the halftime buzzer sounded. The Islanders then pushed the pace early in the second half and stretched their lead to almost 20 points and never gave Chisago Lakes any breathing room.
For a full story on the game, check out the March 21 edition of the Chisago County Press.