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Pashke buzzer-beater gives Alex state quarterfinal victory

Senior Emma Ziegler (left) embraces sophomore Kaye Paschka, who sank the game-winning shot moments earlier to claim the Class AAA quarterfinal game against Grand Rapids. (Ryan Pietruszewski | Echo Press)

Kaye Paschka's floater banged in at the buzzer Tuesday to send the Alexandria Cardinals into Thursday's semifinals with a 46-44 win over Grand Rapids in the Class AAA quarterfinals of the Minnesota high school girls basketball tournament.

The Cardinals will play top-seeded Orono on Thursday in Williams Arena.

Paschka, a 5-foot-6 sophomore, who had not scored up to that point, ended up with the ball in her hands and no time to spare. She darted right, cut back toward the lane and lofted a shot toward the rim. It bounced around before dropping through the net.

Like everybody else, all Paschka could do after releasing the ball was watch and wait.

"When I saw it bounce around, I wasn't quite sure," said Paschka, who spent most of the season on the junior varsity.

"You just cross your fingers and hope it doesn't go in," Grand Rapids coach Kris Hamling said.

Normally, that would have been Kendall Kohler's shot, but she was bottled up by the Grand Rapids defense.

Kohler ended with a game-high 17 points. Teammate Kayla Feldhake added 16 for fifth-seeded Alexandria (26-4).

That fourth-seeded Grand Rapids (23-6) had a chance down the stretch was a testament to its depth and resiliency. Just about everything the Thunderhawks threw at the basket in the first half rattled out, including a bevy of transition layups. Trailing 28-16 just before the break, they started clicking and reeled off a 20-4 run.

Hannah DeMars' jumpstarted the turnaround. A crucial sequence by the sophomore included a steal and layup that gave Grand Rapids its first lead, 31-30. DeMars then knocked down a 3-pointer from the corner and converted a layup for a 36-32 advantage.

DeMars made two free throws with 24 seconds remaining.

Paschka made the most of her 14 minutes on the court Tuesday by hitting the biggest shot of her life.

Heaven Hamling, the daughter of the coach and Grand Rapids' all-time scoring leader, picked up her fourth foul right after halftime and headed to the bench. She returned with 7:01 to play. But she was whistled for her final foul five minutes later.

Heaven Hamling was the first player into the media room Tuesday night. She praised her teammates and lamented the slow first half, when Kohler kept the career 2,000-point scorer under wraps. She finished with four points.

"You can't have the good nights without the bad nights," Hall of Fame Alexandria coach Wendy Kohler — Kendall's mom — said of Hamling, who came in averaging 21.9 points. "Everyone stubs their toe once in a while. It'll make her a better player."

ALEX 28 18—46

GR    18 26—44

Alex — Emma Ziegler 8, Kendall Kohler 17, Kelby Olson-Rodel 3, Kayla Feldhake 16, Kaye Paschka 2. Totals 15 12-21 46.

3-point goals — Kohler 4.

GR — Giana Roberts 5, Heaven Hamling 4, Hannah DeMars 9, Meara Beighley 14, Ashley Henrichsen 2, Maya Schroeder 4, Maggie Miska 4, Jordin McCartney 2. Totals 19 4-5 44.

3-point goals — Roberts, DeMars.

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