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The Laker girl's basketball team celebrates their Section 8-3A championship after defeating Little Falls 53-45 Friday night at St. John's University. (Brian Wierima/Tribune)

Lakers down Flyers - headed to state

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COLLEGEVILLE -  The big sisters' shadow has been lifted.

Of the varsity players on this year's Detroit Lakes girls' basketball team, five of them are the little sisters of the 2007 state Laker squad, which finished in fourth place in the Class 3A tournament.

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But Friday night, the Lakers took a big step out of that shadow and created a legacy of their own.

Playing some stringent defense and hitting some key shots down the final stretch of the Section 8-3A championship, the Lakers advanced to the Class 3A state playoffs with a 53-45 victory over top-seeded Little Falls.

"When I was hugging the (seniors) who were coming off the floor, I was thinking, 'The lil' sisters got it done,'" said DL head coach Mike Hoganson, who coached the Lakers to the state in 2007 and also has daughters on both state teams.

Although the season was an up and down affair for the Lakers, one thing was constant through thick and thin -- defense.

That was no different Friday, as DL did a great job containing Little Falls' two high-scoring posts of Carlee Davich and Whitney Weisz.

The two Flyers created some problems in the paint in the first half, scoring a combined 14 points to give Little Falls a 23-22 halftime advantage.

But adjustments and a buckling-down defense limited the duo to a combined five points in the second half.

"We made sure in practice to know what they were going to do on the post," said DL senior forward Morgan Lof. "We knew what they were planning on doing."

Scouting came into play, as well, with Hoganson pointing out that Weisz liked to go left on her dribble, thus focusing the defense to take away that side for her.

"(Weisz) hurt us in the first half, but we started jumping her left dribble and that made our defense that much more efficient," the DL coach said.

Weisz finished with a team-high 13 points, while Davich had six.

The Lakers made their move in the second half after trailing by five points near the six-minute mark.

Little Falls applied pressure on the DL posts in the paint. That created enough space for DL senior point guard Abby Hoganson to find some breathing room.

She made the most of it by draining one of her two three's at the 6:18 mark coming out of a timeout to pull DL to within two at 41-39.

"They started to try and take our inside game away, so that opened up the outside for me," said Abby Hoganson, who led the Lakers with 16 points. "Each possession was huge and we just took it one basket at a time.

"I'm happy those three's went in."

After Little Falls came up empty on their next possession, sophomore forward Taylor Tschider netted a pair of free throws to tie the game at the 5:38 mark.

The Lakers had the advantage in second-chance points with a 15-5 margin over the Flyers, including a putback by Lof at the 4:37 mark to give DL a 43-41 lead.

Hoganson's second big trey came a couple of series later, as she marked up on the left side of the court to give DL a 46-41 lead with 3:39 left in regulation.

From there, DL's defense applied the pressure, creating a couple of key turnovers, while sinking enough free throws to seal the game.

Tschider was key at the charity stripe, going 9-10, all in the second half. She finished with 15 points.

"We had confidence in ourselves in the second half," Tschider said. "We wanted to play physical with them and I think we were able to do that."

If there were any jitters for the Lakers, they were quelled early, with a quick 8-0 lead out of the gates.

The Flyers were able to make a nice comeback, though, by going on a 15-6 run to eventually tie the game at 17-17 near the three-minute mark.

The game was close for the majority of the two halves, with the score being tied eight different times, along with 12 lead changes.

But the solid first half just bred more confidence in the Lakers.

"At halftime, (Mike Hoganson) said we'd win by six points," Abby Hoganson said. "We were close."

As far as it being their time now, Abby Hoganson and Lof -- who both had older sisters on that 2007 season -- are welcoming it.

"It's good to get back to state," Lof said. "We realized the end was coming near for us seniors and we wanted to make a run."

"It's finally our time," Abby Hoganson added. "It's been our goal ever since we all were young to make state."

The Lakers will await who they play in the Class 3A playoffs, which start Wednesday at Williams Arena on the University of Minnesota campus.

Laker results

Section 8-3A championship: (1) Little Falls vs. (3) Detroit Lakes at St. John's University, Friday, March 13.

Lakers 22 31 - 53

Flyers 23 22 - 45

Scoring (2-3-ftm-fta-pts)

DL: Abby Hoganson 5-2-0-1-16; Morgan Lof 4-0-1-3-9; Taylor Tschider 3-0-9-10-15; Robin Hutchinson 2-1-2-2-9; Dani Labine 2-1-0-0-7; Kayli Muckenhirn 2-0-0-0-4; Dana Bentley 0-0-1-2-1. Total: 18-4-13-19-53.

LF: Pagie Beseman 2-0-3-3-7; Megan Voss 1-1-0-0-5; Trisha Wippler 4-1-3-5-14; Carlee Davich 2-2-0-0-10; Katie Hochsprung 2-0-0-0-4; Whitney Weisz 6-0-1-2-13. Total: 17-4-7-10.

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