Girls Basketball: Goodhue punches ticket to state
ROCHESTER – With a quarter of the game still to tick away, three girls kneeled at the scorers’ table, smiles as wide as the padded table behind them. There was laughter, inaudible due to the din of the crowd across the court.
For three consecutive years, from 2009-11, Goodhue sent a team to the girls state basketball tournament. But 2012 and 2013 ended with losses to Bethlehem Academy in the West sub-section final.
This season, with one of the best players in the class, a supporting cast that features more underclassmen than seniors, and a bevy of inside and outside options, the Wildcats romped their way to the Section 1A championship with a 75-38 victory over Rushford-Peterson Thursday evening at Mayo Civic Center.
With 9 minutes, 14 seconds left in the game, Mikayla Miller, Kali Ryan and Meredith Watson waited for a dead ball. With Goodhue’s lead at 32 points, the three Wildcats were simply letting loose what they had felt for some time already.
“When I knew, is when we all started working hard,” Goodhue senior Kali Ryan said. “The first five minutes of the beginning of the game and the first five minutes of the second half, we just brought it all. We gave it our all.”
By the time the first five minutes passed, the Wildcats were up 11-4, and Miller, who averaged more than 24 points per game coming in, had been held scoreless.
That didn’t last.
Miller scored seven straight points on her way to a team-high 17 in the first half. Four of those points came off of steals that Miller finished on her own. It’s a moment that Miller has replicated hundreds of times throughout her career, and a microcosm of how the Wildcats played defensively Thursday night.
“We’ve been working on how to defend the post, to stay in front and not be behind them because that’s when they get the ball,” said Goodhue junior Shelby Hinsch.
The Wildcats forced more than 20 turnovers, 17 of which came in the first half. Nine times Goodhue stole the ball in the first 18 minutes of the game, adding three blocked shots and a pressure defense that forced R-P to fling the ball out of bounds or take an extra step.
Hinsch had two of those first-half stuffs, finishing with three blocks, three steals and nine points. Miller closed with 21 points and three steals. Kali Ryan had two points and two steals while senior Meredith Watson had eight points and two steals. Fifth-starter Michelle Hadler had five points and two steals.
The bench had similar stats, led by Sydney Lodermeier’s 10 points and two blocks.
After annihilating Bethlehem Academy and Southland in the first two rounds, Goodhue, the top seed in the West, was briefly challenged by Blooming Prairie last week in the sub-section final. But against the Trojans Thursday, the Wildcats trailed just twice, and never again after Megan Ryan hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 13:43 seconds left in the first half.
The game was far from over at that point, but the approach the Wildcats took ensured the outcome would never be in doubt.
“All day, we were worried,” Miller said. “We were putting them up on this pedestal that this is going to be such a tough game. We took advantage of it and let them know that there was no chance they were going to win this game.”
After the final horn sounded, the two teams lined up for the trophy presentation. While the Trojans received their runner-up medals, the Wildcats applauded each name. But when it was their turn, the girls in white were downright giddy. Hugs, handshakes and high-fives were delivered and received with laughter. It was a scene far removed from the past two seasons.
This year, any tears will be shed in Minneapolis. Goodhue does not know who they will play as all of girls basketball will be seeded for the first time in 2014. The Wildcats are the top-ranked team in Class A, meaning when seeds come out Saturday, there’s a good chance Goodhue will get a good draw. Where and when the season ends is still up in the air. But one thing is for sure: the Wildcats are the best in the section, and the smiles are unlikely to wear off by the time Goodhue takes the floor Thursday at Mariucci Arena on the campus of the University of Minnesota.
“We knew this was a very realistic goal,” said Goodhue head coach Josh Wieme. “We haven’t talked much about it, but everybody knew about it.”