Tourney thriller: Larson’s bucket sends Jackets past Saints

natalie winner
The Bluejackets watch hopefully as Natalie Larson's game-winner goes through the hoop to beat St. Francis March 2.

In as exciting a game as you could hope for in the playoffs, the Cambridge-Isanti girls slipped past visiting St. Francis 51-49 March 3 at home. On the Jackets’ final possession, junior forward Natalie Larson had two offensive boards and pounded home the game-winner with less than a second on the clock.

“It was supposed to be a pass out to Whitney, but she got covered. Then Paige shot it and I just wanted to get the rebound and put in before time ran out,” replayed an excited Larson afterward. “I did not know if it went in time or not.”

The Bluejackets opened the game jumping out to leads of 12-2 and 16-6. But the long-standing rivalry between the Saints and C-I rang true, and the back-and-forth momentum took over. St. Francis led 32-29 going into the break and held a 36-31 advantage early in the second half.

At that point, Larson got inside for a hoop, Deandra Vavra finished off a break following a steal, and Whit Olson hit two buckets, including one ‘3,’ to forge a 40-36 Bluejacket lead.

Olson later hit a key three-pointer to make it 45-41, then she sunk 4-of-4 free throws down the last 3:18 to keep C-I ahead. But the Saints’ Nicole Borstner delivered two free throws with 20.2 seconds remaining to knot the score at 49-49.

Olson finished with 25 points to lead all scorers, with Vavra scoring 8, Amanda Hanson 6, Larson 4 and Emily Holboy 4.

The No. 3 seed Bluejackets (19-8) next take on No. 2 Blaine (14-12) in the Section 7AAAA semifinals– 8 p.m. Monday, March 7 at North Branch. That game continues another great rivalry since this will be the third straight year the C-I girls and the Bengals met in the playoffs. Two seasons ago, Blaine defeated the Bluejackets in the section championship, and last season C-I beat the Bengals in OT in the semifinals.

More big news out of 7AAAA was No. 8 seed Anoka upsetting No. 1 Duluth East 62-49. The Tornadoes play No. 4 Andover in the 6 p.m. semifinal game at North Branch on Monday night.

girls hoops
The C-I bench and crowd erupts after Larson's heroic hoop off the O-board.

The 7AAAA championship will be Friday, March 11 back at North Branch.