Surging with a strong second half of basketball in yet another exciting Section 7AA championship game, Braham delivered a 63-52 victory over Esko. The March 10 win on the UMD court sends the Bombers to their third straight State tournament.
The game began ominously when leading scorer Becca Dahlman was called for two quick fouls in the first 1:24 for a quick trip to the bench. Junior Kelsey Sorenson-Giffrow took the lead in the offensive end, cutting to the middle of the Eskomo zone or hitting three-pointers. Senior Hannah Dahlman also came up big with two of her game-high five steals in the early going to help limit Esko’s chances.
“Those two early fouls were dumb mistakes on my part– I should have learned on the first one. I mean, (big brother) Isaiah always tells me, ‘When you have one foul, you have three fouls. When you have two fouls, you have four fouls.’ I need to keep my fouls down. When I was out, Kelsey and everyone else stepped up,” said B. Dahlman.
But Esko’s 6’8” soph center Savanna Trapp began hitting her shots while Braham went cold from the outside, then senior Lydia Pelletier drove for consecutive buckets to push her team ahead for the first time at 16-15. Senior scorer Keely Deadrick drove for eight of team’s final 10 points as Esko went into the half ahead 26-19.
“Going into the locker room at half, I was pretty frustrated– I was getting tossed to the floor,” said Nickles, who also was saddled with two first-half fouls. “Coach helped getting my composure back, and I kept my head level in the second half. We pushed through the adversity and played the best we could.”
Added Sorenson-Giffrow, “We knew we had to make good passes, and I happened just to hit some shots to keep us going in that first half. We can’t always attack the rim because 6’8” will block us.”
Deadrick sunk the first field goal to start the second half, giving her team its biggest lead. Like flicking a switch, Braham transformed itself back into the team which ripped Esko 83-46 just back on Feb. 17.
Becca Dahlman hit a three-pointer and a pull-up jumper. Hannah Dahlman found Sorenson-Giffrow for an open ‘3,’ and B. Dahlman swooped for a reverse against Trapp. On Braham’s next possession, Becca sunk a ‘3,’ was fouled and converted the four-point play for Braham’s first lead in a while at 32-31.
“We felt pretty confident when we were able to keep the game close with both Katie and Becca sitting by us, and they were getting a ton of rest that whole time,” said Bomber Coach Tim Malone. “Becca came out in the second half with so much energy.”
B. Dahlman picked up her third foul on an offensive charge, but she didn’t change her defense. She scored on layups following two of her steals, then Katie Nickles made a steal and passed to Becca as Braham’s lead increased to 39-35. Nickles finished off a break with two free throws, and two possessions later, B. Dahlman scored on another reverse to make it 44-39. Liz Anderson then came through with her own breakaway layup and two more free throws for a 48-41 edge with 8:35 to play.
Esko stayed in its zone defense, and Braham smartly began working long possessions. Sorenson-Giffrow hit her fourth three-pointer for a 51-41 advantage, then B. Dahlman split the defense when Trapp was drawn out to the perimeter. From there, it came down to the Bombers hitting their free throws– going 12-of-14 down the final six minutes and shooting a very solid 19-of-23 at the line for the game.
“That just comes from all the years we’ve played together,” described Hannah Dahlman of the Bombers’ calm operation down the stretch. “We know each other on and off the court like we’re all sisters. That’s what we have that most teams don’t have.”
“The one thing we really look forward to is if they want to play a zone against us and we have a 10-point lead, then we’ve got good enough ball-handlers where we’re just going to pull it out and make you play basketball. So that was huge,” added Coach Malone.
B. Dahlman finished with a game-high 28 points– 26 scored in the second half. Sorenson-Giffrow scored 21 while shooting 4-of-5 from the arc. H. Dahlman and Anderson both scored 5 points, with Katie and Kayla Nickles adding 2 points each.
Deadrick had 20 points, but her chances were limited by smart defensive shadowing by both H. Dahlman and Sorenson-Giffrow. Trapp was held to 12 points.
“Overall, our ability to be flexible is huge,” analyzed Coach Malone. “We liked Hannah’s matchup with Deadrick a lot. When we switched Kelsey on her awhile, Kelsey can be a little more physical. I think Deadrick got a lot less rebounds in the second half.”
On guarding the 6’8” Trapp, Nickles described, “She came out more physical than the last time we played. Our coaches said that if Savanna goes to dribble, cut it off, which we did. We forced turnovers with that defense. We kept pressure on their guards so they couldn’t throw it into her easily. It was a fun game.”
Braham wrapped up the past three 7AA titles on the same UMD court. “This court has been like a second home for this team. The people here have treated us great,” said H. Dahlman who led with 9 rebounds. “Our fans make the drive up here, and that’s what makes it so special.”