GIRLS BASKETBALL: Dominant defense sends Cass Lake-Bena to first section semifinals in 16 years
The Panthers allowed just nine second-half points and advance to the Section 8A semifinals for the first time since 2005.
CASS LAKE -- Out of the gates, it looked like the Cass Lake-Bena girls basketball team was about to put on an offensive show. The performance changed to a defensive clinic in a hurry, but that doesn’t bother the Panthers any.
“We trusted our defense all game long, and all season long,” CLB head coach Martin Wind said. “They take pride in our defense. I told my girls that, if they want to hold the ball, go out and hold it. We have an eight-point lead. If this game’s going to be (in the 40s), oh well. We’ll win.”
Cass Lake-Bena put its foot down, holding visiting Goodridge/Grygla-Gatzke to nine second-half points and winning 54-37 in the Section 8A Tournament quarterfinals.
“It’s just heart,” Wind said. “I told these girls all season that defense is all about heart and pride. Take pride in your defense. They come out big. They kept their hands up. A couple fouls, and we missed a couple layups, but we always fought on defense all second half.”
The opening surge came from Amira LaDuke and Krisalyn Seeyle, who combined for a 7-0 start in under two minutes. From then on, though, defenses ruled the day.
The third-seeded Chargers (14-6) tried to keep up behind Caitlyn Jacobson’s 17 first-half points, but the second-seeded Panthers (15-5) still broke out a 22-7 advantage on Gabby Fineday’s 3-pointer midway through the half.
Jacobson started to heat up late, using a personal 8-0 run that helped Goodridge/Grygla-Gatzke close within five, but Kailee Fineday’s 26-foot triple at the buzzer restored some momentum to Cass Lake-Bena and afforded them a 36-28 halftime edge.
“About halfway through the year, we started really clicking,” Wind said of the offense. “Even tonight, we have shooters all over the court and two big girls who can score inside. It was just awesome starting out right away. And then the crowd helps us out. Our bench is crazy.”
The play wasn’t always pretty out of the locker rooms, as the second-half score was 4-3 CLB at the midway point. The Chargers went 6:45 without a field goal, only finding the bottom of the net once more when Vivian Coan’s layup made it 42-35 Panthers with 7:31 to go.
From then on out, Cass Lake-Bena didn’t allow Goodridge/Grygla-Gatzke to make another shot.
CLB closed the game on an 8-0 run -- all on a perfect performance from the free-throw line -- and advanced to the Section 8A semifinals for the first time since 2005.
“(We’re) trusting each other, playing as a team,” Wind said. “That’s what we always say, play for each other. We worked the ball around. We trust everyone on the court to shoot their free throws, whoever gets fouled.”
Fineday tallied a team-high 15 points for the Panthers, while Taryn Frazer and Krisalyn Seeyle added a dozen. LaDuke hit double-figures with 10 points, as well.
Jacobson finished with a game-high 19 points for the Charger cause.
Cass Lake-Bena will next try to make its first section championship game appearance in 16 years when facing top-seeded Fosston in the semifinals at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 23, in Fosston.
“It’s been awesome,” Wind said of the postseason run. “My dad is coaching the boys, so if he wins, we have to win. We’re going to see who makes it further. It’s going to be pretty fun the next couple of weeks.”
No. 2 Cass Lake-Bena 54, No. 3 Goodridge/Grygla-Gatzke 37
GG 28 9 -- 37
CLB 36 18 -- 54
GOODRIDGE/GRYGLA-GATZKE (14-6) -- Jacobson 19, Coan 7, Knutson 5, Anderson 2, Larson 2, Wilebski 2.
CASS LAKE-BENA (15-5) -- K. Fineday 15, Frazer 12, Seeyle 12, LaDuke 10, G. Fineday 3, Wright 2.