You’re never too old to learn, and what I learned at St. Michael on Saturday was that Mountain Dew comes in two flavors—diet and “normal.” The ball games came in 2 flavors, too. There were the close ones, and there were the blowouts. I can’t say which was normal, however, because there were 2 of each, at least in a manner of speaking. Really, what there were was 4 close, competitive halves, and 4 that weren’t so close. Here are the close ones:
• The day opened with #9 seed Rockford playing a terrific half of basketball to stay within striking distance of #1 seed Holy Family at 31-25.
• In the day’s 3rd game, Blake played a nearly perfect 1st half of basketball—and made a perfect 20-of-20 FT—to stay close to Maranatha at 38-32.
• And, the day’s final game was the only one to feature 2 close halves and what at the final buzzer you could call a close game. #3 Watertown-Mayer simply had too much Monika Czinano and slowly pulled out to a 49-44 win over Maple Lake.
Holy Family 63 Rockford 49
The Rockets, giving up an average of 3.5 inches at every position, made just 6-of-18 shots in the 1st half, but did a great job of cutting into the lane for catch-and-shoot opportunities, getting to the FT line and converting 10-of-15 freebies. 5-4 junior guard Neely Griffin led the Rockets with 8 1st half points while 5-6 freshman guard Sydney Manthana scored 6 points and delivered 2 assists.
Holy Family coach said her team did a much better job of defending without fouling in the 2nd half. Rockford made 7-of-8 FT but just 4-of-19 FG. Meanwhile, Leigh Steiner controlled things for the Fire, handling the ball all day long without a single turnover, scoring 13 points on 4-of-8 shooting with 6 assists, 2 steals and a block. Julia Geurs added 9 points and contributed some solid 2nd half defense in the paint.
The final was 63-49 (not 63-59 as reported on the Hub. I know that Rockford’s individual totals add up to 59 but that is because Victoria Nelson is credited with 10 points. She never checked into the game.) Griffin and Manthana each finished with 10 points.
Mpls. North 64 Annandale 39
The Hannah Purcell-less Annandale Cardinals were manhandled by Mpls. North 35-19 in the 1st half and 30-20 in the 2nd. North shot 13-of-24 in the 1st half and scored 17 of their 35 points off of Annandale turnovers. Alani Pettis and Monique Wooten each scored 11 points and Serena Ballard and reserve Alexandria McNeill scored 8 in the half. Wooten, Pettis, McNeill all finished in double figures for North.
Meanwhile, Annandale (Taylor Medvec) made its 1st 3-pointer and led 9-8 when the wheels started coming off. Neither the make nor the early lead were predictive, as the Cardinals made just one of their next 9 3-point attempts. Medvec was the only Cardinal to score in double figures with 13.
Purcell had just announced her commitment to DePaul when she injured her PCL. She has now missed 7 or 8 games with the injury, but she is expected back for the summer season.
Maranatha 74 Blake 44
Did I mention that officials have been calling games quite closely this post-season after tolerating all manner of mayhem during the regular season. Maranatha failed to adjust during the 1st half, putting Blake in the bonus at 11:10 and the double bonus at the 7 minute mark. You would have to say that Blake capitalized, making 20-of-20 from the line. Maranatha made 15-of-30 FG but just 4-of-13 from the line.
What everyone knew was going to happen in the 2nd half did happen. Blake, with just 8 girls on its entire roster versus 18 for the Mustangs, never found their legs from the very 1st minute of the 2nd half. 5 of their 1st 6 shots clanked off the front of the rim. Instead Maranatha scored the 1st 8 points of the half to lead 46-32, and the final totals for the 2nd half were Maranatha 36 Blake 12. Jaclyn Jarnot, Macy Smith, Desiree Ware and Kylie Post all scored in double figures for the Mustangs, Cate Moe and Morgan Phillips did the same for Blake.
Watertown-Mayer 49 Maple Lake 44
Wouldn’t you know, these 2 teams were determined to play a tough, physical game no matter what and, unlike the 1st 3 games of the day, the officials decided to let them play. Maple Lake took an 8-2 lead as senior guard Mollie Scheiber scored twice. Watertown crept back within 12-10 as Monika Czinano scored all 10 points for the Royals, all from point blank range. The Irish never figured out how to keep Czinano from catching the ball down low, and once she does that you can count the 2.
Watertown took its 1st lead at 14-12, capping off a 12-4 run, but Maple Lake’s Calli Maki made a long 3 at the buzzer to keep the Irish within one at 22-21 at the half. The Irish were lucky to be that close, having shot 8-of-28 in the 1st half with 12 turnovers. Czinano had 16 points, 5-7 senior guard Linsey Rachel 8 for Maple Lake.
The Irish went up 28-25 midway through the 2nd half, and then the lead changed hands or the score was tied on 12 straight scores. It was during this back-and-forth phase that the Irish lost this game, making just 1-of-9 FT to trail 40-37 at the 5 minute mark. Soon Watertown led 43-39 and 5-10 freshman guard Maggie Czinano scored the last 4 points to ice it for the Royals.
Monika Czinano was unstoppable, while Maple Lake’s Linsey Rachel was terrific but not unstoppable. Czinano outscored Rachel 28-18, making 13-of-18 FG while adding 13 rebounds. Rachel shot 9-of-21 with 9 boards and 7 turnovers. If the Royals strategy was to bump and jostle Rachel all day, they executed that to perfection. It seemed that she got bumped and jostled on every shot, especially in the 2nd half, but remained invisible to the referees. Then, at around the one minute mark, she corralled an offensive board and got absolutely crushed. No call. Czinano’s supporting cast shot 6-of-26, Rachel’s 8-of-38, and the 2 teams turned it over 38 times.
The Bottom Line
The new normal is that all 4 of the higher seeds won. Maybe you noticed that out of more than 300 section games so far, there have been maybe a half dozen serious upsets, almost all of them in Class AAAA.