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GIRLS BASKETBALL: Cass Lake-Bena claims 1st section crown since 2005, punches ticket to state

Cass Lake-Bena qualified for its fourth state tournament in program history with a 65-55 win over Stephen-Argyle.

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Cass Lake-Bena girls basketball players celebrate after winning the Section 8A championship game against Stephen-Argyle Central on Friday, March 26, 2021, at the Ralph Engelstad Arena in Thief River Falls. (Hannah Olson / Bemidji Pioneer)
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THIEF RIVER FALLS -- Cass Lake-Bena is stateward bound for the first time in 16 years.

The CLB girls basketball team topped Stephen-Argyle 65-55 in the Section 8A championship game Friday night at the Ralph Engelstad Arena in Thief River Falls.

“It’s a really good feeling,” Panthers head coach Martin Wind said after the win. “We’ve been working all year for this. It’s been 16 years since the last time we went to the state tournament. My dad was coaching then, so it’s a really special moment doing that.”

The Panthers have qualified for their fourth state tournament in program history, to go along with trips in 1984, 1998 and 2005.

Cass Lake-Bena again created havoc for opposing shooters Friday. The Storm committed 23 turnovers, compared to just 13 for CLB.

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“We played really good defense,” Wind said. “We played really good team ball. We worked the ball around. Overall, the team defense really helped us.”

On the offensive end, Taryn Frazer guided CLB with 19 points.

The Panthers (17-5) entered the game as the No. 2 seed in the East subsection, while Stephen-Argyle (17-4) was the top seed in the West.

Cass Lake-Bena grabbed onto an early lead and kept it. The Storm last led at 8-7 four minutes into the game.

CLB trailed 8-5 when it exploded for a 15-0 run. Kailee Fineday capped the outburst with a corner 3-pointer that came as a result of a Stephen-Argyle turnover, making it 20-8 with 9:20 remaining in the half.

The Storm answered bucket for bucket the rest of the half to keep the Panthers from pulling away.

Eighth-grader Gabby Fineday nailed a 3-pointer at the buzzer to put an exclamation point on the opening half. Cass Lake-Bena headed to the locker room leading 35-23.

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Cass Lake-Bena girls basketball players celebrate after winning the Section 8A championship game against Stephen-Argyle Central on Friday, March 26, 2021, at the Ralph Engelstad Arena in Thief River Falls. (Hannah Olson / Bemidji Pioneer)

Krisalyn Seeyle’s trey extended the Panthers’ advantage to 50-32 with under 10 minutes remaining, the largest lead of the game.

Trailing 58-41 with less than seven minutes to play, Stephen-Argyle gathered a head of steam and worked its way back into the game.

The Storm embarked on a 12-0 run, due in large part to their ability to draw fouls. Free throws accounted for eight points during the stretch, which left CLB clinging to a 58-53 advantage with three minutes to go.

“I told the girls at halftime that this team is a good team,” Wind said of Stephen-Argyle. “I said, ‘If they go on a run, we need to stop their run with team defense and we need to turn it around and go on our own run.’ And the girls did that. I know we want to run and gun all the time, but we stopped it. We worked the ball around and we made good plays.”

Stephen-Argyle was unable to find the bucket it needed, and Amira LaDuke drew a foul with 1:16 remaining. The junior converted the front end of a 1 and 1 to make it 59-53, ending the scoring drought.

Moments later, Frazer forced a steal and put the game away with her bucket that brought the score to 61-53 at the :46 mark.

“She’s a floor general,” Wind said of Frazer. “She held it together.”

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Another forced turnover and a couple of trips to the foul line later, and the Panthers were section champions.

Following Frazer’s 19 points, three others scored in double digits for Cass Lake-Bena. Kailee Fineday added 13 points, Seeyle 12 and Gabby Fineday 11. LaDuke chipped in eight points and Alyssa Wright two.

Riley Mooney posted a game-high 23 points for the Storm, while Grace Carlson added 17.

The Class A state quarterfinals will be played either Tuesday, March 30, or Wednesday, March 31, at a regional location to be determined. The Panthers will also learn their opponent when the state tournament seedings are announced Saturday, March 27.

“I started coaching two years ago, and we’ve been working for this two years now,” Wind said. “It means the world to me right now that these girls played as hard as they did and they’ve come all this way.”

No. 2 Cass Lake-Bena 65, No. 1 Stephen-Argyle 55

CLB 35 30 -- 65

SA 23 32 -- 55

CASS LAKE-BENA (17-5) -- Frazer 19, K. Fineday 13, Seeyle 12, G. Fineday 11, LaDuke 8, Wright 2.

STEPHEN-ARGYLE (17-4) -- Mooney 23, Carlson 17, Johnson 6, Kazmierczak 5, Weberg 4.

Related Topics: BASKETBALLGIRLS BASKETBALL
Austin Monteith is the former sports editor at the Bemidji Pioneer. A native of Bloomington, Ill., he is a 2015 graduate of Butler University. Follow him on Twitter at @amonteith92. Contact the Pioneer sports department at sports@bemidjipioneer.com.
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