Fergus Falls comeback comes up short against Academy of Holy Angels in state quarterfinals

MINNEAPOLIS — Fergus Falls coach Brad Strand said he wanted the ball in freshmen Ellie Colbeck's hands for the final play of Wednesday's Minnesota Class 3A quarterfinal girls basketball game. Colbeck is the leading scorer for the Otters and had the hot hand at Maturi Pavilion.

That's where the ball ended up, but as Colbeck drove to the basket, Academy of Holy Angels swarmed and ripped the ball away. Kassandra Caron came away with the steal. With 0.7 seconds remaining, Holy Angels had the ball and a 58-57 lead. The Stars inbounded the ball and celebrated a trip to the semifinals.

"We wanted a high-ball screen for her, we had to get shooters in the corners and crash the boards," Strand said. "They just doubled hard and Ellie kind of got it stripped. I'd put the ball in her hands again if I had to do it all over again."

Fergus Falls trailed 58-50 with 2 minutes, 23 seconds remaining. The Otters forced four straight turnovers to cut the lead to 58-57 with 37 seconds remaining. Colbeck split two free throws, Sam Evavold hit a layup and Sabrina Fronning hit two layups in the 7-0 run.

"We turned up the intensity and the urgency was turned up," Strand said.

Evavold got a steal with 22 seconds remaining for Holy Angels' fifth consecutive turnover. Strand called a timeout with eight seconds remaining, but the Otters couldn't get a shot up. With two freshmen and a junior in the starting five, Strand is hoping the team builds from this experience.

"The lights are bright," Strand said. "I just hope that we develop somebody that can take charge and have a calming influence when we need it. I wish I had more timeouts to do that, but we only get five."

Fergus Falls had a 41-34 lead in the early minutes of the second half, but Holy Angels answered with a 17-0 run over the next four minutes to take a 52-41 lead with 10:30 to go. Fergus Falls crawled back into it, but came up just short.

Colbeck led Fergus Falls (23-5) with 20 points, five assists and five rebounds, while Lily Pearson added 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Otters. Caron had 20 points, while Francesca Vascellaro had 19 points and eight rebounds for the Stars (22-7).