Quasars to play for third

MINNEAPOLIS -- Entering Friday's girls' Class A semifinal basketball game, the Ada-Borup Cougars had averaged more than 70 points per game. However, the Southwest Star Concept defense allowed the Cougars just 44 points Friday. Unfortunately for t...

MINNEAPOLIS -- Entering Friday's girls' Class A semifinal basketball game, the Ada-Borup Cougars had averaged more than 70 points per game.

However, the Southwest Star Concept defense allowed the Cougars just 44 points Friday. Unfortunately for the Quasars, they could only manage 35 points of their own in a 9-point, 44-35, defeat.

"That thing could have got to a 20-point or 30-point blowout, but it's just too bad because we could have won," SSC head coach Les Knutson said. "If we would have executed better, scored inside and got a lead on them, who knows how they would have reacted."

With the victory, A-B will advance to face Barnum in today's championship game.

"We've been knocking at the door the last couple of years, so it's nice to get there," A-B head coach David Smart said. "Yea, we're excited.


"I think Barnum likes getting up and down too," Smart continued. "So it will be a little different, and it might be a track meet. I like our defense; the defense has always shown up. We went 6-for-27, but we held them to 11 points (in the first half). I guess if we can play defense like that, I like our chances (in the championship game)."

SSC (23-8) will face New Life Academy of Woodbury in the third place game at 10 a.m at Concordia University.

"We'll be ready to play, but they are pretty dang good too," Knutson said. "They are more like us, where they are bigger and aren't all that fast. I think that's a better game for us; we're tired of playing these shorter, quicker teams."

Neither team was able to find an offensive rhythm in the early part of the game. SSC's Breanna Rients (seven points) hit a free throw and Sid Place (nine points, eight rebounds) hit a pair of foul shots as SSC had an early 3-0 lead.

However, that was all the teams could muster in the first five minutes of the game.

A-B (30-1) made the game's first field goal with 13:01 remaining, as Laura Kolness (six points, five rebounds) connected on a jumper.

As Adri Rasche (four points, seven rebounds) answered with a jumper of her own, Katy Ness (seven points, seven rebounds) followed with a pair of foul shots for A-B, and SSC had a 5-4 lead midway through the first half.

"They opened the door for us," Knutson said. "We could have been up 12-3 right there, but we didn't score ourselves. They did a nice job on Rients, and we ended up basically having to force stuff for her."


A shot from Brooke Dewall (eight points, seven rebounds) pushed SSC's lead to three points, but A-B's Nicole Smart, who averages 21 points a game, connected on her first basket to cut the lead to a single point.

"Right away we came out struggling a little bit," Nicole Smart said. "Our shooting wasn't there, but our defense was there the whole game, and that's what got us through."

A-B's Brittany Burke converted a layup to give the Cougars their first lead of the game, 8-7, with seven minutes remaining as A-B used an 8-0 run to extend its advantage to 11-7.

SSC, who committed 23 turnovers for the second straight day, would get within two before the break, but a jumper from Vicki Ellefson gave A-B a 15-11 lead at the break.

"We'd rather get out in transition and run and have a high scoring game, but we'll take whatever we get," David Smart said. "We went 6-for-27 or something like that in the first half. If we can go 6-for-27 and have a 4-point lead, I'll take that. I don't want to shoot like that every night. I don't know if the girls were tight or what happened."

But in the opposite locker room, it was exactly how the first half was supposed to go.

"I thought we really played good defense in the first half," Knutson said. "They missed some shots, and we were kind of lucky that way, but we kept it a low-scoring game. I didn't want it that low scoring; I thought we'd score more than 11 points."

Ellefson hit a shot to start the second half and Smart followed with a trey as A-B pushed the lead to 11 points, 20-11.


"We got hot there a little bit and (Nicole) knocked down a few shots and got her confidence back," David Smart said. "Everything started flowing, and the girls played well. They are doing a great job of communicating on the floor. We didn't give Southwest any good looks at the basket, and that makes a difference."

Smart, who has scored more than 2,000 career points in just her junior season, was limited to four points in the first half, but connected for five points in the first two minutes of the second half.

"Our shots weren't falling in the first half, but we knew coming in the second half that we were going to be shooting better," Nicole Smart, who finished with a game-high 16 points, said. "We couldn't keep this poor shooting up, so that was to our advantage. We just said that we've come this far, we're not going to give it up now, and I think that kind of helped us get through it."

The Cougars scored nine points in the first 2:31 to start the second half to increase their lead to 24-15.

"They got that stretch at the beginning of the second half where we scored just once, and they got a couple of outside shots," Knutson said. "I was disappointed in our offensive execution. I was pleased with our defensive intensity, and I was pleased with our heart and desire -- that we played right until the end."

The Cougars opened up a 14-point lead (33-19) following a trey from Smart, but a shot from Rients and a trey from Place cut the lead to nine points with 9:12 remaining.

"We started getting so dang careful that we wanted to make sure that we made the perfect pass, and we just got over cautious, and they got really aggressive," David Smart said. "Once we dealt with that and realized that we still have to be strong with the ball, and we still have to attack the basket, things went a little better."

With a 9-point lead and the ball, A-B began to play conservative on the offensive end. Neither team scored during a four minute span, forcing SSC to foul. The Cougars were true on free throws, and pushed the lead back to 11 points, 37-26.


An Erika Post layup cut the lead to seven points, but SSC ran out of time in the comeback, falling 44-35, and propelling A-B, whose average margin of victory is 35 points, into the Class A championship game.

"I'm pumped; we all are," Nicole Smart said. "It's been a dream of ours for many years, and it's going to be awesome."

Barnum defeated New Life Academy 64-61 in the first semifinal game Friday.

"They are tough, but we've played them before," Nicole Smart said of Barnum. "It wasn't the same team, but two years ago we played them at state, and they beat us. They are big, but we've seen that, and we did today. Our post girls do amazing. Even though they are short, they can battle in there. We'll be fine if we keep playing like we are."

SSC 11 24 -- 35

Ada-Borup 15 29 -- 44

SSC (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Rients 0-2-3-7, Dewall 0-4-0-8, Place 1-1-4-9, Rasche 0-2-0-4, Voehl 0-0-1-1, Post 0-2-0-4, Olsem 0-1-0-2. Totals 1-12-8-35.

A-B (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Smart 2-4-2-16, Ness 0-2-3-7, Wagner 0-0-3-3, Ellefson 0-2-4-8, Kolness 0-2-2-6, Burke 0-2-0-4. Totals 2-12-14-44.

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