ROCHESTER - The frenetic pace and atmosphere of Tuesday's Section 1A-West Subsection semifinal between Goodhue and Lyle/Pacelli caught the Wildcats off-guard.
The third-seeded Athletics' speed and pressure defense forced multiple turnovers in the opening minutes of the first half before second-seeded Goodhue settled down and came away with a 70-62 victory at the Mayo Civic Auditorium.
"We expected them to want it to be that frantic," Goodhue head coach Josh Wieme said. "We did not do a good job that first eight minutes. ... There was an adjustment to a playoff game, the atmosphere and the pace of play."
Mikayla Miller was a steadying and dominant influence for the Wildcats throughout the game. Miller scored the first six points for Goodhue, tallied 19 in the opening half and finished with 31 points, 10 rebounds and five steals.
"To come into a game like this and always know you have the best player is so refreshing," Wieme said of Miller. "She's so reliable. Especially in the first half, it was pretty vital."
Miller went 11 of 13 from the free-throw line, but the Wildcats struggled as a team at the charity stripe, going 24 of 39. Mikayla Tipcke had 12 points and four rebounds, Kali Ryan tallied 10 points and five rebounds and Meredith Watson seven points and nine rebounds. Goodhue (23-5) had 14 steals and 34 total rebounds in the win.
Lyle/Pacelli (23-4) got balanced scoring with four players in double figures. Sarah Holtz led the team with 20 points, and Maggie Lewison notched 14 points while Ann Rysavy and Brooke Walter each contributed 10 points.
The Wildcats played sloppy in the opening minutes as the teams traded baskets with three ties and four lead changes. Goodhue grabbed a 14-10 lead with 11 minutes, 34 seconds remaining in the first half thanks to eight points by Miller.
The Athletics responded immediately with 3-pointers on three consecutive possessions and another basket by Lewison to take a 21-19 lead. The fifth-ranked Wildcats were reeling after Lyle/Pacelli went up 24-21 at the 7:04 mark, but Miller had the answer with a 3-pointer and two free throws to take back a 26-25 lead.
"They played better than I expected," Miller said of the Athletics. "They were really aggressive. We were all really impressed with the way they played."
Goodhue calmed down in the final minutes before halftime and led 36-31 at the break.
In the second half, the Wildcats extended their lead to 15 points but Lyle/Pacelli stormed back to within five points around the 7-minute mark. Goodhue maintained a comfortable lead for the next couple minutes and despite the Athletics pulling within 66-60 with less than a minute remaining, the Wildcats held on for the victory.
Goodhue has struggled with full-court pressure at times this season, Wieme said, and it was helpful for the Wildcats to face a team like Lyle/Pacelli. Goodhue doesn't face pressure defenses often in the Hiawatha Valley League, so Tuesday's game prepared them for third-ranked and top-seeded Bethlehem Academy (22-4) on Saturday.
"I think it's better than the alternative," Wieme said. "Saturday's going to be a ton of hype. We got a nice taste of that today; find a way to make the plays necessary to win."
"I think we'll be more ready for the full-court press," Miller added. "That gave us an idea of what we'll face and staying composed."
The Section 1A West-Subsection finale will begin at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Mayo Civic Auditorium.