Girls basketball: Sauk Rapids-Rice upsets DL in intense section semifinal battle
Sauk Rapids-Rice rode a gigantic scoring run toward the end of the first half and start of the second. It was enough to earn a 59-55 win over Detroit Lakes, the defending 8-3A champions.
DETROIT LAKES — The Section 8-3A girls basketball tournament has been full of jaw-dropping outcomes over the last two years.
Detroit Lakes was on the favorable end of two head-scratching upsets last March, knocking off second-seeded Alexandria in double overtime before eliminating top-seeded Willmar in the title game. However, Cinderella’s shoe fit a different foot on Saturday at Lakeshirts Fieldhouse.
The No. 3-seeded Sauk Rapids-Rice Storm (18-10) rode a gigantic scoring run, lasting more than six minutes to finish the first half and six minutes to start the second. It was enough to earn a 59-55 win over the No. 2 Detroit Lakes (22-5), the defending 8-3A champions.
Despite losing 64-47 to the Lakers on Feb. 11, the Storm entered its 8-3A semifinal bout unphased. Sauk Rapids-Rice head coach Jon Roesch said the experience from the earlier game taught his team that they needed to focus on rebounding and stay out of foul trouble to compete with the Lakers on Saturday.
“Kudos to the Lakers who had a great season; they’re a great team with great athletes,” he said. “At this point, we’re at ‘win and advance.’ We get to practice on Monday, which will be great.”
Given the first 12 minutes of the game, however, some may have wondered if the Storm really were ready for the rematch. In that opening stretch, the Lakers received scoring contributions from Elle Bettcher, Jacee Hauser and Grace Gunderson to steadily build an 18-11 lead.
That’s when Roesch called a timeout.
When the Storm retook the court at 6:26 left in the first half, they switched to a 1-3-1 zone defense, and the effect on the Lakers was devastating.
“Sauk Rapids came out in a zone, and it took us out of our rhythm,” Detroit Lakes head coach Rachel Johnson said. “Normally, we adjust pretty well to a defensive switch. But we didn’t adjust like we normally do.”
Roesch’s strategy worked as Sauk Rapids-Rice cut Detroit Lakes’ lead to 23-22 at halftime. The Storm’s momentum carried into the second half as well.
Sauk Rapids-Rice senior Grace Roesch and junior Courtney Paulsen powered the surge with determined drives to the bucket and a timely 3-pointer as well. By the time the first six minutes of the second half were done, the Storm climbed to a 39-27 lead.
But the Lakers weren’t done either.
At the 11:49 mark, sophomore Karlee Mace drove to the rack but was fouled. She made both her free throws to cut the Storm’s lead to 39-29, but more importantly, it seemed it turned the momentum back in Detroit Lakes’s favor.
Junior Helena Daggett and senior Abby Larson hit back-to-back 3-pointers, pulling the Lakers to within two buckets at 39-35.
Trying to cool the hot Lakers, the Storm called a timeout at 8:39 with a six-point lead, but it wouldn’t slow down Detroit Lakes. Over the next six minutes, the Lakers clawed their way back to even the game. Larson and Hauser led the comeback. Hauser punished the Storm with inside buckets, while Larson hit two key 3-pointers, as well as going 5-for-6 from the free-throw line in that stretch.
With just over two minutes left in the game, Mace grabbed a steal and went the length of the court to convert a layup and draw the Lakers to the 53-53 tie. They would never be that close again.
Coming out of a Storm timeout at 1:49, the Lakers fouled Paulsen who converted one free throw for the lead at 54-53. Over the next 40 seconds, the Lakers would put Sienna Petermeier and Paulsen on the charity stripe five more times. They converted two more foul shots, pushing the lead to 56-53.
All Detroit Lakes could do in the waning seconds was to keep fouling the Storm and taking urgent 3-point shots when they had the ball. Ultimately, they couldn’t keep pace and fell 59-55.
Sauk Rapids-Rice will play No. 1-seed Alexandria for the section championship at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 9, at a neutral site.
The contest marked the last game for Detroit Lakes seniors Larson, Ellie Lunde, Hauser and Rachel Kasowski. Detroit Lakes’ 22-5 record marks one of the best in program history.
“This is what the tournament is all about. It’s about going out there and seeing which team is the best on any given night,” Johnson said. “We came out ready to play. But when the tide changed, we didn’t knock down our shots, and they found some momentum on the offensive side.”
SAUK RAPIDS-RICE – 22 37 - 59
DETROIT LAKES – 23 32 - 55
SAUK RAPIDS-RICE – Grace Roesch: 18 points; Courtney Paulsen: 21 points; Sienna Petermeier: 2 points; Lauren Schloe: 4 points; Mia Rogholt: 14 points.
DETROIT LAKES – Abby Larson: 16 points; Helena Daggett: 3 points; Ella Okeson: 2 points; Karlee Mace: 4 points; Grace Gunderson: 11 points; Elle Bettcher: 6 points; Jacee Hauser: 13 points.