Girls Basketball: Section title out of reach for K-W
ROCHESTER – Try as Kenyon-Wanamingo did, the Knights' defense couldn't take everyone away.
The focus on defense coming into Friday's Section 1AA championship game against Rochester Lourdes started with Alyssa Ustby and Wynter Bergner.
In the second half, that opened things for Grace Rogers. And with all of her 15 points coming in the second half – including a perfect 6-for-6 effort at the free-throw line in the final minute – the third-seeded Eagles left the Mayo Civic Center as section champions with a 67-61 victory over the fourth-seeded Knights.
“You have to give credit to 14 (Rogers). We talked all week in practice about her as someone that wasn't much of an offensive factor. We wanted to take away 24 (Bergner), we wanted to take away 21 (Ustby), and she was the one we figured we could live with,” said K-W head coach Brent Lurken. “And she stepped up and made plays.”
Trying to get to state for the first time since 2014, the Knights overcame a six-point deficit halfway through the first half by going on a 18-6 run for a 32-29 halftime lead.
Outside shooting proved fruitful for K-W in the first half with seven of the team's 11 field goals coming from 3-point range.
“We moved the ball really well and we were finding open spots,” said senior guard Mara Quam, who had 15 of her game-high 26 points in the first 18 minutes.
The 3-pointers were a little harder to come by in the second half. Using a box-and-one look on defense, Lourdes also managed to take away many of the baseline drive looks that Quam and teammate Savannah Bleess had earlier in the game.
“When you got a box-and-one and the four other girls have an eye on her, (Quam) does a lot of things but she has a hard time scoring against three or four girls,” Lurken said. “We weren't able to get the ball inside as much as we would have liked to in the second half.”
Added freshman Riley Dummer, who finished with 10 points off the bench for K-W, “It was just harder to get open for everyone.”
Attempts to pressure the Eagles with the press was met with mixed results. And with 7:47 left to play, Lourdes capped off an 11-0 run with a 3-pointer from Rogers to go ahead 49-40. The combo of Rogers and Ustby accounted for 25 of the team's 38 points in the second half.
“They're really good at the press break,” Quam said. “We were pressuring them, but there's not much you can do with the way they passed.”
Lurken added, “Usually we're able to force a few turnovers and we maybe got two turnovers off the press. Then we got to the point there where we weren't doing a very good job of getting back and they got a couple layups. Eventually, we called it off.”
Leading the rest of the way, the Eagles went 15 of 18 from the free-throw line in the final three minutes after previously going 2 of 10 before the final stretch.
Rogers was 7 of 11 from the stripe. Along with Rogers' 15 points, Bergner had 21 points and Ustby 19 as the Eagles head to state for the first time since 2009-10.
“We weren't expecting 14 (Rogers) to come out like that,” Quam said. “I don't know if she's ever done that.”
K-W ends the 2016-17 season with a 19-10 record while Lourdes (21-9) will open Class 2A play Wednesday at Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis.