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Fulda set to defend its Class A title

MARSHALL -- Establishing an early inside presence and holding a two-to-one ratio on the boards Friday night, the Fulda Raiders built a 37-21 halftime lead on their way to a 69-51 victory over the Dawson-Boyd Blackjacks in the Section 3A girls' basketball championship game at Southwest Minnesota State.

Kaitlyn Kramer (26) and Laura Kramer (22) combined for 48 points to fuel the 27-3 Raiders, who will play Rushford-Peterson (Section 1A champion) in the first round of the Class A state tournament Wednesday at 8 p.m. at Target Center.

"We take whatever the defense gives us," said Fulda head coach Gregg Slaathaug, who was named the Section 3A Coach of the Year. "They wanted to pressure our outside shooters, and we were able to work the ball inside right away."

Twenty-eight of the 37 first-half points Fulda scored came in the paint, as D-B didn't have an answer for the Raiders' inside attack.

A Laura Kramer putback basket and Kaitlyn Kramer's hoop off a high-low lob from Laura staked the Raiders to an early 4-0 lead a minute into the contest.

The Blackjacks (17-9) came back to take a 7-6 lead -- their only one of the night -- with 15 minutes to play, as Britta Helgeson and Nikki Swenson (21 points) each stroked a 3-pointer.

Kaitlyn Kramer (eight rebounds, three blocks) hit a five-foot runner in the lane and knocked down an elbow shot to help the Raiders regain the lead at 12-9 with 10:57 left.

After D-B's Charlotte Bergeland hit a free throw 75 seconds later, Fulda went on a 10-0 burst to build a 22-10 lead with 7:04 to play.

Amy Paulzine started the run with an inside basket, while Laura Kramer hit a pair of free throws and scored off a high-low pass from Chelsey Speckmeier.

Sam Raddle (six assists, four steals) then put a shot in high off the glass before Kaitlyn Kramer delivered a beautiful backdoor bounce pass to Speckmeier for a layup.

Meanwhile, Fulda was also doing the job defensively -- utilizing a 1-3-1 zone to help stop the quick penetrating abilities of the Blackjacks.

"We wanted to contain their penetration," Slaathaug said. "We forced them to kick it out and shoot from the perimeter. When they missed, we were there to secure the rebound."

Fulda was also crashing the offensive glass for second- and third-chance points, and ended up outrebounding the Blackjacks, 45-23, for the game.

"We take pride in boxing out and rebounding," Slaathaug said. "A lot of those rebounds come from the hustle these girls play with."

Swenson scored twice on quick drives in the lane and later hit a 3-pointer to spark the Blackjacks, but Kaitlyn Kramer scored eight of her 16 first-half points in the final seven minutes to help the Raiders carry a 37-21 bulge into halftime.

Fulda extended its lead to 42-23 in the second half's initial two minutes as Laura Kramer's left-handed layup, and Mandy Gunderman's 3-pointer from the left wing, keyed the Raiders.

Kristin Lee (13 points) answered for the Blackjacks with a pair of pull-up jumpers on the left baseline and a 3-pointer from the left corner -- helping D-B pull within 46-32 with 12:04 to go.

Kaitlyn Kramer then scored on a nifty give-and-go play with Sarah Raddle (seven assists) to trigger an 11-2 Fulda surge.

Laura Kramer (17 rebounds) followed with a three-point play, Kaitlyn Kramer scored in transition, Paulzine hit an inside shot, and Gunderman swished an 18-footer to produce the other Raider points in that stretch -- making it 57-34 with 8:50 remaining.

The Blackjacks came back to within 16 (59-43) with 5:47 left, but never got any closer.

"We are very happy with where we are at, but we're not ready to stop," Slaathaug said. "We've been through this before, and we hope to finish like we did a year ago."

This year's state tournament trip will be the fourth in six years for Fulda, and the Raiders will look to defend their state title in Minneapolis.

Dawson-Boyd 21 30 -- 51

Fulda 37 32 -- 69

Dawson-Boyd (3FG-2FG-FT-TP): Voss 0-2-1-5, Bergeland 0-0-3-3, N. Swenson 3-5-2-21, Schutte 0-0-1-1, Lee 3-2-0-13, Helgeson 1-0-1-4, K. Swenson 0-2-0-4. Totals: 7-11-8-51.

Fulda (3FG-2FG-FT-TP): Sam Raddle 0-1-0-2, K. Kramer 0-13-0-26, Speckmeier 0-1-0-2, Gunderman 1-3-0-9, L.Kramer 0-9-4-22, Paulzine 0-3-2-8. Totals: 1-30-6-69.