The Cass Lake-Bena Panthers used a 15-0 run in the first half to build a double-digit lead and held off a late rally to beat the Stephen-Argyle Storm 65-55 in the Section 8A Girls Basketball Championship played at Ralph Englestad Arena in Thief River Falls.
Stephen-Argyle’s Riley Mooney scored the first points of the game with two free throws for an early 2-0 lead. The lead changed hands three times over the next minute and with the Storm trailing 5-4, Marey Kazmierczak made a jump shot and Mooney added two free throws for an 8-5 lead with 14:30 left in the half. Cass Lake-Bena picked up the defensive pressure with a 1-2-2 three-quarters quart press. The Panthers forced a turnover and Taryn Frazer scored on a layup to spark a 15-0 run for a 20-8 lead halfway through the half. “The press gave us a lot of problems,” said Storm Coach Heidi Carlson. The teams played even the rest of the half and Cass Lake-Bena took a 35-22 lead into halftime. “I was angry,” said Coach Carlson. “We were not using what they were giving us. They were giving us the inside and we were refusing to look inside.”
Cass Lake-Bena continued their tough defense, forcing Stephen-Argyle into a bunch of turnovers and the Panthers built a 50-32 lead halfway through the half. It was at this point in the game the Storm started looking inside to their 6’1 junior Grace Carlson. Grace scored the next four points and after a Cass Lake-Bena basket, she scored two more points in the paint to give the Storm a little momentum. Cass Lake-Bena answered to build a 58-41 lead with 6:54 left in the game. Stephen-Argyle settled down and came away with some defensive stops and nice offensive plays as they went on a 12-0 run with Mooney scoring six points, Carlson adding four, and Greta Weberg adding two free throws to bring the Storm within a 58-53 deficit with 3:04 left in the game. “We told the girls that we had to play better on the defensive end and keep chipping away,” said Coach Carlson. “We did a good job of attacking on offense and it got us back in the game.” Cass Lake-Bena made enough of their free throws and only allowed Stephen-Argyle to score two points in the final three minutes and held on to win 65-55 to advance to the Class A State Girls basketball tournament. “The girls fought so hard at the end and we were down by 17 and got it down to five,” said Coach Carlson. “The girls went out and did their job, unfortunately, it was a little too late. I am so darn happy and so proud of these girls and what they accomplished this year. They should be proud of themselves and they need to keep their heads held up high.”
Stephen-Argyle wraps up the fantastic season with a 17-4 record and a Section 8A Runner-up finish. “I am so proud of all of these girls,” said Coach Carlson. “I told the girls that their parents have to share them with me, they’re all my daughters, and I can’t be more proud of them than I am right now.” The Storm say goodbye to three seniors – Leah Johnson, Emily Gunderson, and Holly Jensen. “We will miss Leah’s three-point shot for sure. She gave us a spark that’s for sure,” said Coach Carlson. “Emily played inside and didn’t get as many minutes as she wanted but we used her when we could and she performed well when we needed her. Holly didn’t get a lot of time this year, but when we asked her to perform she did and my goodness did she give the girls a run for their money in practice this week.”
Cass Lake-Bena improves to 17-5 on the year and will advance to the quarterfinals of the State tournament either Tuesday or Wednesday.
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