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GIRLS BASKETBALL: Panthers survive semifinal scare, head back to title game on double-OT win

Cass Lake-Bena survived third-seeded Fertile-Beltrami 65-60 in double overtime of Monday’s Section 8A semifinals. Scary as it was, Taryn Frazer and Co. are heading back to the championship to defend their title.

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The Panthers celebrate a win against Fertile-Beltrami in the Section 8A semifinals on Monday, March 7, 2022, at Ralph Engelstad Arena in Thief River Falls.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

THIEF RIVER FALLS -- Double overtime is Taryn Frazer’s bread and butter.

“Those are the games I live for,” the Cass Lake-Bena girls basketball senior said. “I love these kinds of games.”

So much so, apparently, that she was willing to miss two game-winning free throws in the final seconds of regulation to get there.

“It was really relieving (to win), especially after missing those free throws,” she laughed. “But a win’s a win.”

The sentiment rings ever so true for the top-seeded Panthers, who survived third-seeded Fertile-Beltrami 65-60 in double overtime of Monday’s Section 8A semifinals at Ralph Engelstad Arena in Thief River Falls. Scary as it was, Frazer and Co. are heading back to the championship to defend their title.

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Cass Lake-Bena senior Taryn Frazer (2) guards the ball in the first half against Fertile-Beltrami in the Section 8A semifinals on Monday, March 7, 2022, at Ralph Engelstad Arena in Thief River Falls.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

“They got through it. They showed a lot of heart tonight,” CLB head coach Martin Wind said. “It’s a team effort. That’s what we’ve been doing, and that’s what we’re going to keep doing. Hopefully we can get one more game and go back to state.”

Frazer may have missed those two late free throws, but she was otherwise clutch as could be. She finished the night with 28 points, which included a personal 9-0 run during a stretch in which Cass Lake-Bena scored 14 straight and sorely needed points.

That was a stark contrast from a first half that the Falcons owned. The underdogs from Fertile-Beltrami (22-7) reeled off runs of 9-0, 7-0 and 9-0 and led by as many as a dozen. The Falcons hit a few big shots, but they benefited most from a Panthers team that never kicked it into high gear.

CLB (27-2) struggled to control the game against a team they beat by 38 in December. A few sloppy turnovers, mixed in with some defensive breakdowns, concocted a 32-25 deficit by halftime.

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Cass Lake-Bena fans cheer in the second half against Fertile-Beltrami in the Section 8A semifinals on Monday, March 7, 2022, at Ralph Engelstad Arena in Thief River Falls.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

“They moved the ball really well, and we were just a step behind,” Wind said. “I don’t really know what was going on with it, but I think the second half came around and we got our legs under us. We got comfortable, and we forced them into a few turnovers. As soon as we got going, we just took off.”

Early in the second half, Amira Laduke sparked something for Cass Lake-Bena with a pair of free throws, and Frazer scored the game’s next nine points. Soon after, Frazer added the hockey assist on Mya Reyes’ 3-pointer for a 47-38 lead off the 14-0 power surge.

“I don’t even know how to explain it,” Frazer said of being in the zone. “It’s just a takeover mindset. I’ve just had it.”

Yet the Falcons wouldn’t be denied, holding the Panthers scoreless for over seven minutes and regaining the lead at 50-49 with under 2:30 to go. Frazer finally ended the drought with the go-ahead layup off a midcourt steal, but the teams ultimately settled into a 55-55 deadlock after Frazer missed her two free throws with 2.6 seconds remaining.

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Cass Lake-Bena senior Krisalyn Seelye (5) shoots the ball in the first half against Fertile-Beltrami in the Section 8A semifinals on Monday, March 7, 2022, at Ralph Engelstad Arena in Thief River Falls.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

The two sides tied 2-2 in the first overtime, which brought on the second, but the Panthers finally proved superior over the final four minutes. Laduke made a go-ahead putback early on, as she and Frazer combined for seven points in the decisive 8-3 frame.

“It’s a team effort,” Wind said. “We play 10 girls. It’s not just Taryn or Amira or Krisalyn (Seelye) or (Gabby) Fineday. We have 10 girls who played, and they all stepped up and did their part. That’s why we came out on top today.”

Joining Frazer in double figures were Laduke with 11 points, plus Fineday and Seelye with 10 apiece. Tori Erickson scored 15 and Marin Roragen 14 to lead the Falcons.

Cass Lake-Bena advances to its second straight section championship game and will face Warren-Alvarado-Oslo -- the No. 4 seed from the West subsection. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. on Friday, March 11, back at the Ralph in TRF.

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Cass Lake-Bena players pose with their plaque after beating Fertile-Beltrami in the Section 8A semifinals on Monday, March 7, 2022, at Ralph Engelstad Arena in Thief River Falls.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

Cass Lake-Bena 65, Fertile-Beltrami 60 (2OT)

FB 32 23 2 3 -- 60

CLB 25 30 2 8 -- 65

FERTILE-BELTRAMI (22-7) -- Erickson 15, Roragen 14, Iverson 13, Wilson 12, Miller 2, Pinske 2, Strem 2.

CASS LAKE-BENA (27-2) -- Frazer 28, Laduke 11, Fineday 10, Seelye 10, Bowstring 3, Reyes 3.

Micah Friez is the former sports editor at the Bemidji Pioneer. A native of East Grand Forks, Minn., he worked at the Pioneer from 2015-23 and is a 2018 graduate of Bemidji State University with a degree in Creative and Professional Writing.
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