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Raiders advance with 56-44 victory over Quasars

MARSHALL -- Jumping out to a quick 10-point lead and cutting the point production of Southwest Star Concept's three highest scorers in half Saturday night, the Fulda Raiders earned a 56-44 victory over the Quasars in the highly-anticipated Section 3A South girls' basketball championship game at the R/A Facility at Southwest Minnesota State University.

Second-seeded Fulda (26-3) advances to play Dawson-Boyd -- which defeated Minneota, 55-51, to win the Section 3A North title -- in the Section 3A championship game Friday in Marshall at 5 p.m.

"Our experience playing here definitely helped us get off to a quick start," Fulda head coach Gregg Slaathaug said in reference to the R/A Facility. "We also played with outstanding composure for the entire 36 minutes."

The Red Rock Conference champion and top-seeded Quasars finish their season at 23-4.

"We had a very fine season," SSC head coach Les Knutson said. "Winning 23 games and the conference championship are certainly highlights for this group of girls."

Fulda vaulted out to a quick 9-0 lead in the first four minutes, as Laura Kramer (18 points, 10 rebounds) scored twice on the low block -- converting the second one into a 3-point play -- before Sam Raddle (10 points) swished an 18-footer, and Amy Paulzine scored on a turnaround jumper.

Brooke DeWall (six points, five rebounds) got the Quasars on the board with an 18-foot jumper with 13:51 remaining, but Mandy Gunderman (five assists, five rebounds) stroked a 3-pointer from the top of the key to make it 12-2 just 19 seconds later.

Back-to-back hoops from DeWall and Adri Rasche made it 12-6, but two consecutive perimeter jump shots from Chelsey Speckmeier triggered the Raiders on 9-2 spurt -- capped by a Sarah Raddle 3-pointer to make it 21-8 with 9:05 left.

After Linnea Henkels (12 points, eight rebounds) and Kramer exchanged putback baskets, the Quasars went on a 9-0 burst to pull within four (23-19) with 4:42 to play.

Chelsey Knutson (eight points, four rebounds) scored on a quick drive to the hoop in transition and fired in a 3-pointer from the top of the key to spark the Quasars in that stretch.

However, Fulda -- which used a 1-3-1 sagging zone defense to stymie the Quasars -- closed the half with seven straight points to carry a 30-19 advantage into halftime.

"They really took away our inside game and kind of surprised us with a zone defense," Knutson said. "That was certainly a big factor in the game, and the Raiders deserve a lot of credit for their overall play."

Fulda's defense held DeWall, Henkels and Rasche -- a trio that combined to average about 45 points per game throughout the season -- to 22 points Saturday.

"Our shots always seem to fall whenever we play good hard defense," Slaathaug said. "We wanted to take away the high post from SSC because they are such a great passing team."

Kaitlyn Kramer (nine points, six assists) scored a pair of hoops to begin the second half, but SSC scored the next nine points to trim the lead to six (34-28) with 14:35 remaining.

Breanna Rients (nine points, three assists) knocked down a 3-pointer and hit a tough runner in the lane to key the Quasars in that stretch.

But Laura Kramer scored on a sweet reverse layup -- turning it into a 3-point play -- to spark the Raiders on a 13-0 surge.

"Laura played an outstanding game," Slaathaug said. "All of the girls did what they needed to do, and we were able to beat a very good team in the Quasars."

Laura Kramer -- who collected her 1,000th career rebound -- followed with three more inside buckets, Kaitlyn Kramer hit a baby hook in the lane, and Speckmeier scored on a putback to give the Raiders a 47-28 bulge with 9:24 left.

"That reverse layup by Laura was a big play, as we had just cut it to six," Knutson said. "I thought she was the anchor of their interior defense, and her point production was key for the Raiders."

SSC used some full-court pressure defense and came back with a 10-2 run, cutting the lead to 11 (49-38) with 4:51 to play.

But Sam Raddle drilled a 3-pointer from the right corner to make it 52-38 just 21 seconds later, and the Quasars couldn't get any closer after that.

"We had a couple of nice rallies throughout the game and maybe should have put more back-court pressure on earlier in the game," Knutson said. "Fulda did a lot of things very well to take away some of the things we do well."

Fulda 30 26 -- 56

SSC 19 25 -- 44

Fulda (3FG-2FG-FT-TP): Sam Raddle 2-2-0-10, Kuehne 0-1-0-2, K. Kramer 0-4-1-9, Sarah Raddle 1-1-0-5, Speckmeier 0-3-0-6, M. Gunderman 1-0-1-4, L. Kramer 0-8-2-18, Paulzine 0-1-0-2. Totals: 4-20-4-56.

SSC (3FG-2FG-FT-TP): Knutson 2-1-0-8, Rients 1-1-4-9, Henkels 0-2-8-12, DeWall 0-3-0-6, Pelzel 1-0-0-3, Place 0-1-0-2, Rasche 0-2-0-4. Totals: 4-10-12-44.