Minnehaha Academy’s hopes for yet another state girls’ basketball title were dashed on March 18 when it got bounced 69-57 in the Class AA semifinals by a Fergus Falls team that was playing in its first-ever tournament. The loss was sandwiched between the Redhawks’ 82-29 blowout over Lake Crystal/Wellcome in the opener and nail-biting 53-52 win over Albany to take the third-place trophy.
The loss to second-seeded Fergus Falls came as third-seeded Minnehaha’s shots failed to fall the way they had all season. The Redhawks’ superb freshman guard Addi Mack had 25 points in the game, though most of those came in the second half after the team finally rebounded from a miserable start. Sophomore Aliyah Al-Hameed finished with 10 points and senior Telia Graham added eight for Minnehaha.
The Otters jumped out to a 17-3 lead that swelled to 35-15 by the half. Minnehaha reduced the deficit to seven points late in the second half. However, whenever the Redhawks put on a run, the Otters matched it with a streak of their own.
Minnehaha coach Matt Pryor gave a lot of credit to Fergus Falls, but had a rather grim assessment of the performance of his own club, which had been averaging nearly 80 points a game.
“All season long, we’d been a good shooting team,” Pryor said, “but against Fergus Falls we couldn’t hit water if we fell out of a boat.”
The Otters out-rebounded the Redhawks 38-22 and had a 20-4 edge in second-chance points. Minnehaha also made only seven of 24 three-point attempts—all of which combined to make it very difficult to win a basketball game.
“We didn’t play our best basketball, but Fergus Falls had a lot to do with that, for sure,” Pryor said.
The Redhawks regrouped nicely in the win over Albany the next day at Concordia University. Minnehaha was trailing by 15 before the game was even 10 minutes old. However, it soon got its moxie back. Seventh-grader Ava Cupito became the hero when she hit the winning field goal with just four seconds to play.
“We seemed to have that hangover from the previous game,” Pryor said, “but we started to get it back as the game went on. It was nice to see us come back the way we did.”
Mack led Minnehaha against Albany with 15 points, while Angel Hill had 14 and Cupito added 10.
The Redhawks (26-6) went into the playoffs with high hopes and there was little in that first-round game against Lake Crystal/Wellcome to make anyone think they looked vulnerable in any way.
Mack and senior Charita Lewis each had 14 points to pace the win. Hill had 13, Al-Hameed and Cupito both added 11, and junior Aniyah Reuben contributed 10. Graham had 10 rebounds.
Guards Mack and Lewis both were named to the all-tournament team.
Minnehaha was competing in its 13th state tournament in 15 years. The Redhawks will graduate three seniors this season who contributed major minutes, but Pryor said expectations are running high with the returning players.
— Bill Wagner
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