LP-A girls' basketball deepest run in playoffs ends in near miss
It was quite the introduction to sub-section championship play for the Lake Park-Audubon girls' basketball team.
The Raiders played in the first sub-section championship game in the history of the team Monday, and they butted up against one of the best in the state in the No. 8-ranked Ada-Borup Cougars.
But the Raiders didn't flinch with intimidation against a team that won by an average margin of 30.9 points per game. Instead, the LP-A girls almost went in and qualified for their first Section 6-1A championship.
But experience does mean something, as the talented Cougars calmly erased a five-point deficit with just 35 seconds remaining in regulation by scoring a tying bucket at the eight-second mark. That led to an overtime period where Ada-Borup would outscore the Raiders by a 4-1 margin for the 50-47 victory.
But if there was one thing which LP-A brought out of its best showing in the playoffs ever, it was respect.
"Everyone had Ada-Borup, Ulen-Hitterdal and Nevis making noise in this section," said LP-A head coach Andy Schwan. "No one talked about LP-A, and we went out and gave them hell."
The third-seeded Raiders (15-11), who lost to only two Class 1A teams this season, eliminated Ulen-Hitterdal in the quarterfinals to advance to their first-ever sub-section title tilt.
And they made the most out of that chance. LP-A was just 35 seconds away from pulling the stunning upset over the Cougars after sophomore center Dawnelle Askelson converted 2-of-2 free throws to give her team a 46-41 lead.
A long three-pointer by guard Brittany Gunderson at the 27-second mark pulled the Cougars to 46-44, while a full-court press ruffled LP-A a bit, which forced a turnover by A-B's Katy Ness.
That left a running baseline jumper by Nicole Smart to tie the game at 46-46 with eight ticks left, which eventually led to overtime.
In the extra period, LP-A's lone point come from the free throw line by Leah Lage, with the Cougars notching the rest of the points on a put back by Ness for the 48-47 margin.
Ada-Borup (24-2) put on a stall offense, but the Raiders still had a shot after Ashley Tingelstad nabbed a steal. Unfortunately, they lost the ball out of bounds. A missed free throw by the Cougars gave the Raiders another shot, but Smart would end that hope with one of her three steals on the night.
After Kelli Smart went 2-2 from the charity stripe, LP-A had one more chance to tie the game when the inbound pass found an open Askelson behind the arc, but her shot hit too much iron at the buzzer.
"That was the shot we were looking for," Schwan said of his team's last gasp of hope.
The Raiders' defense was a key to keeping LP-A in the game, holding to 50 points a Cougar team which usually cements wins with 65-70 points.
"We did the job defensively," Schwan added. "We forced overtime against a team which scores 70 points a game."
One blow the Raiders were hit with was an injury to senior forward Whitney Brekken, who was lost in the second half after taking a charging call and an elbow to the eye.
From that point on, the Cougars were able to take advantage of a smaller Raider lineup and notch several crucial offensive boards.
"We missed Whitney, because she's a senior leader who can dominate the boards," the LP-A coach said.
The Raiders held the potent Cougar offense in the first half, leading 19-18 heading into halftime. Askelson had 10 of her 20 total points in the first half, while LP-A's defense wrangled in the Smart sisters of Ada-Borup, as Nicole had just two points and Kelli only one.
In the end, even a loss wound up being a learning experience, Schwan said.
"People doubted us all year, and this team came together and they believed in their goals and accomplished their goals," he added.
Tingelstad finished with a second team-high 14 points, while Gunderson netted a Cougar-high 15 points, followed by Nicole Smart's 12.
Ada-Borup will face the winner of a Nevis-Verndale match-up Friday at Concordia College at 7 p.m.
Section 6-1A semifinals at Concordia College, Monday, March 6. (3) Lake Park Audubon vs. (1) Ada-Borup.
Raiders 19 27 1 - 47
Cougars 18 28 4 - 50
LPA: Leah Lage 0-0-1-2-1; Dawnelle Askelson 9-0-2-2-20; Jenni Laney 1-1-2-2-5; Whitney Brekken 2-0-3-4-7; Ashley Tingelstad 6-1-1-2-14. Team: 18-2-9-12-47.
A-B: Nicole Smart 3-0-6-8-12; Kelli Smart 1-0-2-3-4; Brittany Gunderson 7-1-0-1-15; Ashley Filipi 4-0-0-0-8; Laura Kolness 1-0-2-2-4; Katy Ness 3-0-1-4-7. Team: 19-1-11-18-50.