GIRLS BASKETBALL: Warriors start strong, fall to top-seeded Minneota in state quarterfinals
MINNEAPOLIS — The Red Lake girls basketball team wanted the best and they got the best. And Thursday morning at Maturi Pavilion on the campus of the University of Minnesota, the Warriors had the best against the ropes.
Ultimately, though, top-seeded Minneota withstood a strong Red Lake start to knock off the Warriors 66-46 in the Class A state tournament quarterfinals. Red Lake will meet Ada-Borup in the consolation semifinals at 10 a.m. Friday, March 15, at the Gangelhoff Center on the campus of Concordia-St. Paul.
Red Lake knocked down the first two shots they took with a pair of 3-pointers from Autumn Holthusen and Gerika Kingbird as they roared out to a 14-4 lead in the opening five minutes.
“We were hitting and we were thinking, let’s go, let’s go, let’s go,” said Red Lake head coach Randy Holthusen. “In times in the past our team has done that and it almost seems like we play a little lackadaisy and get satisfied with the lead but at the same time we have to have that killer instinct to put them away right there.”
Shortly after the 14-4 start, Minneota’s press break started to work and they found easy buckets on the other end.
“Their intensity picked up, I’ll tell you that,” coach Holthusen said. “They started looking for (Minneota forward Lydia Sussner) a bit more inside. We started strong and we let up with our intensity and our defensive pressure. I told them at halftime that we cannot do that in the state tournament game because all the teams are good here and they’ll take advantage of any little weakness that we exploit.”
Sussner played a big part in getting her Vikings back in the game early on, using a personal 6-0 run to bring the game to 14-12 in favor of Red Lake. Her defense and rebounding proved to be a difference maker more than her scoring efforts, though. The all-state senior pulled down a game-high 17 rebounds to complement her 18 points.
Minneota overtook Red Lake with 7 minutes, 51 seconds remaining in the first half with a 15-14 lead and never looked back, fighting its way to a 35-21 halftime lead.
Both defenses were suffocating in Thursday’s bout, which featured physical plays from start to finish. The good defenses led to poor shooting days on both sides, but Minneota dominated the glass 67-36, earning multiple second- and third-chance efforts each possession. In addition to Sussner’s 17, Abby Hennen grabbed 13 rebounds and teammates Lizzy Gillingham and Morgan Hennen each pulled down nine.
“We knew from the get-go that they’re a good rebounding team and regardless of who was shooting the basketball, we just have to put a body on (Sussner),” coach Holthusen said. “She’s pretty dominant under there and she’s big, really athletic, too. Bottom line, we just need to be better as a rebounding team and not have any let ups on the defensive end.”
Autumn Holthusen led the Warriors with 11 boards.
Offensively for the Warriors, Kingbird was the go-to scorer with a team-high 17 points. She knocked down three triples and added four steals to the cause. Angel McClain did her best to break through the post-heavy Vikings, adding 11 points to the scoring total.
Red Lake shot 22.4 percent from the field while Minneota managed a 35.5 percent shooting clip.
“Offensively, we took our shots when we had them and they were good, quality shots but we just didn’t make them,” coach Holthusen said.
Red Lake’s swarming defense became the ire of the referees Thursday as the Warriors got dinged for 26 personal fouls. Minneota got called for 19 fouls, too, in an all-around physical game.
“I expect any game for us to be physical because that’s how we play,” coach Holthusen said. “We like to pressure them but any game at this juncture in the state tournament, whether it’s semifinal game or a quarterfinal game, you’re going to have good teams that you play against no matter what. So, we’re just grateful to be here. We would have loved to win that game but at the same we’ve got another one to look forward to tomorrow.”
No. 1 Minneota 66, Red Lake 46
RL 21 25 -- 46
MHS 35 31 -- 66
RED LAKE (21-8) -- Kingbird 17, A. McClain 11, Holthusen 6, K. McClain 7, Pemberton 5.
MINNEOTA (28-1) -- Gillingham 19, Susner 18, A. Hennen 16, Kockelman 5, M. Hennen 4, Rolbiecki 2, Rost 2.