Moorhead girls take aim at unbeaten Elk River and state tourney berth
MOORHEAD-Fresh off of one of the program's biggest wins ever, Moorhead's girls basketball team is now aiming to produce an even bigger one in order to play in its first state tournament since 2007."It's a lot of fun right now," said Moorhead head...
MOORHEAD-Fresh off of one of the program's biggest wins ever, Moorhead's girls basketball team is now aiming to produce an even bigger one in order to play in its first state tournament since 2007.
"It's a lot of fun right now," said Moorhead head coach Jed Carlson, whose team knocked off No. 4-ranked St. Michael-Albertville 77-69 in Saturday night's Minnesota Class 4A, Section 8 semifinal game played in Monticello.
Now the 22-6 Spuds face No. 2-ranked and unbeaten Elk River (28-0) in a 7 p.m. section championship game Thursday, March 9, on the same Monticello court where they pulled off Saturday's upset.
It was quite the upset, considering the Spuds lost to St. Michael-Albertville 83-44 earlier in the season. Do the Spuds have another upset in them, against an Elk River team that handed them an 87-68 loss on Jan. 28?
"They really believed they could win this time," Carlson said, referring to the St. Michael-Albertville game. "They are a confident group right now. I think we are playing carefree and pretty loose. It really is kind of a special feeling right now."
The Spuds built a 17-point first-half lead against St. Michael-Albertville before settling for a 40-40 tie at halftime. St. Michael-Albertville's only lead was 54-52 before the Spuds pulled away at the end.
Junior guard Sam Haiby, being looked at by major Division I schools, led the Spuds with 31 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists. Senior post Brooke Tonsfeldt, who has committed to play at Division II Minnesota State-Mankato, had 20 points, 11 rebounds and 4 assists. Freshman forward Jalen Ennen added 10 points.
But perhaps just as importantly, freshman Megan Haugo limited St. Michael-Albertville standout Rae Johnson, an Iowa State commit, to 10 points. After draining nine 3-pointers in St. Michael-Albertville's section quarterfinal win, Johnson did not make one 3-pointer against the Spuds.
"Before that game, we just talked about believing," Carlson said.
Now, with a team that relies on as many as 11 players, the Spuds believe their challenging scheduled has prepared them for Thursday's showdown with Elk River.
In addition to regular-season losses to Elk River and St. Michael-Albertville, the Spuds also lost to unbeaten and top-ranked Hopkins (75-52 on Nov. 26), Prior Lake (79-78), Sioux Falls Washington (64-46) and Minnetonka (69-60).
While Haiby averages nearly 24 points and Tonsfeldt nearly 19 points, the rest of the Spuds' scoring comes from seven more players-including starters Haugo, Ennen and senior Beth Hulst. The backups include senior Carissa Amundson and Emily Leier, sophomore Brooke Carney and freshmen Ayana Blythe, Samantha Hulst and Rylie Polomny.
Together, they have won 10 straight games-the last loss coming on Jan. 28 against Elk River.
That's when Elk River's Gabby Haack, a Miss Basketball finalist who plans to play at Division I Bradley, poured in 45 points on the Spuds' home court. Haack is one of five senior starters, including power forward Sydney Wentland, who has committed to play at Division I Denver.
"We'll have to do a much better job on Haack and limit their transition," Carlson said. "We have to make them score over us. The first thing we have to do is rebound. We like to run and if you don't rebound, you can't run. And they are big.
"We have to be in an attack mode. We have to try to wear them out a little bit and use our depth. It's almost an identical game plan as we had against St. Michael-Albertville."
Which, as it turned out, produced a major upset.