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Detroit Lakes' sluggish first half too much to overcome in Class AAA state girls quarterfinals

The Eagles outscored the Lakers 39-15 in the opening 18 minutes.

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Detroit Lakes' Abby Larson, middle, looks for a teammate in the first half of the Lakers' loss to Totino-Grace in the Class AAA state quarterfinals on March 16, 2022, from Maturi Pavilion at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.
Jared Rubado / Detroit Lakes Tribune

MINNEAPOLIS — The Detroit Lakes girls basketball team hoped to spoil another highly ranked team’s run for a Minnesota Class AAA state championship. But under the bright lights of the University of Minnesota’s Maturi Pavillion, the Lakers’ inexperience showed in the first half.

Detroit Lakes (14-13) fell to No. 3 Totino-Grace (21-8) 64-43 in the quarterfinal round of the state tournament on Wednesday afternoon. The Eagles outscored the wide-eyed Lakers 39-15 in the opening 18 minutes.

“I think our nerves really got to us in the first half,” junior Jacee Hauser said. “Honestly, I was so scared. I could barely catch the ball in the first five minutes. It’s crazy how big it is in there. It’s just intimidating. We came out really flat. If we came out like we did in the second half, I think it would’ve been a little different. We won the second half, but if we came out stronger, it would’ve been a different game.”

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Detroit Lakes' Ella Okeson shoots a free throw in the first half of the Lakers' loss to Totino-Grace in the Class AAA state quarterfinals on March 16, 2022, from Maturi Pavilion at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.
Jared Rubado / Detroit Lakes Tribune

Detroit Lakes jumped out to a 5-2 lead on a 3-pointer from junior Abby Larson and a layup from sophomore Elle Bettcher. From there, Totino-Grace went on a 13-0 run. Needing a jolt, Detroit Lakes head coach Rachel Johnson turned to freshman Karlee Mace off the beach. Mace scored her first points of the postseason to help pull the Lakers within eight points of the lead.

“I’m very proud of her and very happy with how she played,” Johnson said of Mace. “That’s why we put her in, to give her that spark. Everybody else was struggling, so I threw her in there to see if she could give us something different offensively and defensively. She just wasn’t scared. We talked about it before the game about coming in not scared and playing with nothing to lose. Karlee really went and did that and showed the other girls how to play the rest of the game.”

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Of Totino-Grace’s 39 first-half points, 29 of them came from Hannah Herzig and Abby Lord. The Eagles’ dynamic scoring duo also helped limit the Lakers to zero points in the final 5:19 of the first half.

“They’re definitely a great team,” Johnson said of Totino-Grace. “They have lots of athletes and lots of scorers. When you have a team that can execute on the offensive end like they can, it just makes it really tough to make a run. I would’ve liked to see our second half in the first half just to see what a true second half would’ve looked like when we were at our best.”

The Lakers found their footing in the final 18 minutes. After being shut out in the first half, Hauser scored eight quick points to help chip away at the 24-point halftime deficit. Hauser sparked a boost of conviction to a stagnant Detroit Lakes offense.

“It was good to see,” Johnson said of the Lakers gaining confidence as the game went on. “I laid into them at halftime. That first half is not who we are or how we play. I haven’t seen that team in weeks. It’s definitely frustrating, but they stepped up to the challenge of getting better, doing the little things right and making sure they executed in the second half. We made a nice little run, but couldn’t quite get over the hump.”

Hauser hit her third 3 of the half to cut the Eagles’ lead to 13 with 7:23 left. She finished with a team-high 15 points, while Bettcher had 10 points and nine rebounds to lead the Lakers on the stat sheet.

“I felt like I had the hot hand. I needed it,” Hauser said. “We all have those games where we feel like that. My teammates recognized that and got me the ball. When somebody else has the hot hand, they get the ball. I see a lot of teams come here, and it’s almost like a one-person show. We’re just not that kind of team. We proved that we could get here as a team. We win and lose together.”

“Jacee really dug down deep,” Johnson said. “She had a weaker first half, but she mentally checked herself and she gut-checked herself. She came out and had a stellar second half.”

Detroit Lakes won the second half 28-25. Once the Lakers settled into the moment, they proved to themselves they could compete among the state’s best teams.

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“At halftime, the nerves fully went away,” Hauser said. “I think, even for tomorrow, we’re going to have a way better game because we have this first experience under our belt. You have to have your first time at some time. This is an experience that really helped us today.”

Detroit Lakes takes on Grand Rapids in the consolation semifinals at 4 p.m. Thursday at Concordia-St. Paul. The Thunderhawks fell to No. 2 St. Paul Como Park 76-57 on Wednesday. The winner advances to the Class AAA consolation game at 4 p.m. Friday against the winner of Austin and Benilde-St. Margaret’s.

“Our mindset (coming into the tournament) is we’re the underdogs,” Hauser said. “We wanted to come here, play our game and have fun. Obviously, we wanted the first half to go differently today, and we would’ve liked to win, but it’s also important to get this under our belts and learn from it. I think we will be even more focused on winning tomorrow now that the nerves are out of the way.”

DETROIT LAKES 15 28 — 43

TOTINO-GRACE 39 25 — 64

DETROIT LAKES- Abby Larson 4 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist, 1 steal; Helena Daggett 1 point, 2 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal; Elle Bettcher 10 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block, 1 steal; Grace Gunderson 5 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals; Jacee Hauser 15 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assist, 3 steals, 3 blocks; Ella Okeson 4 points, 1 rebound, 1 block; Ellie Lunde 4 rebounds; Karlee Mace 4 points, 2 rebounds

TOTINO-GRACE SCORING- Leah Daengerud 14, Hannah Herzig 17, Abby Lord 16, Caroline Schlaefer 7, Itoro Etuko 8, Chloe Nuss 2

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