Hardly blinking when down early 14-2, the Braham girls ground their way to a 77-66 victory over Pequot Lakes in the quarterfinal round of the Class AA Basketball tourney March 16 at Williams Arena.
The win sends the Bombers to the March 18 semifinals at Target Center (8 p.m.) against Providence Academy who defeated St. Peter 43-33 in its quarters match. Playing in the other AA semifinals will be defending champ Minnehaha Aademy (60-59 over Jackson County Central) and Sauk Centre (58-43 over Caledonia).
Faced with the early deficit against the Patriots, the Bombers began clawing back when Becca Dahlman hit a three pointer and Kelsey Sorenson-Giffrow finished off a three-point play. Katie Nickles and Liz Anderson sunk free throws. The team passed well on field goals by Anderson and Hannah Dahlman on consecutive possessions, then B. Dahlman’s two free throws gave Braham its first lead at 19-18 with just under nine minutes to play in the first half.
The half closed with the teams tied 37-37 as Kayla Nickles and Sorenson-Giffrow hit consecutive three-pointers for the Bombers.
Senior Emily Lueck was a principle thorn in the Bombers’ side in that half, scoring 12 of her team’s first 18 points and 19 in those full 18 minutes.
“We tried everything against her. We’d tried man, we tried doubling on her,” said Braham senior Hannah Dahlman who pulled a long shift on Lueck. “She’s an incredible player. I give her props for coming out here in her first State appearance, and she played like that. That just says who she is as a person and a player. We knew she couldn’t beat us by herself, so our job was to limit the rest of the team.”
The long-range bombs also played huge to start the second half when Anderson and Sorenson-Giffrow knocked down shots in a row to build a quick 43-40 edge. The game stayed extremely tight for the majority of the half until Braham gained a little daylight when Nickles finished off a mad scramble for an offensive board with a bucket, H. Dahlman scored inside, then B. Dahlman drove hard to make it 60-54 and forcing a Patroit timeout.
With under five minutes to play, B. Dahlman finished off a steal with a layup , then she stepped back to swish a ’3′ which propelled the lead out to 70-62. Then just like in the section championship against Esko, the Bombers smartly began wearing down the clock with long possessions forcing two Patroit starters to foul out.
Becca Dahlman led all scorers with 34 points and doubled up with 14 rebounds. Sorenson-Giffrow finished with 14 points and 3 assists, and Katie Nickles worked for 11 points and 8 rebounds.
For Nickles, it was a great way to enjoy her 18th birthday.
“It was the best birthday gift ever. I got maybe a little nervous early, but we pulled through it,” she said. “18th was the best birthday I ever had in my whole life.”
She continued, “We knew if we didn’t want this to be our last game ever together, we had to get through it. Emily Lueck was just lighting it up on us; she could make everything. She is a very good athlete, but we knew her team would cool off in the second half.”
Lueck led Pequot Lakes with 23 points, and Kylie Beltz scored 21 before fouling out. Also scoring for Braham were: Anderson 8, H. Dahlman 6, Kayla Nickles 3, and Austyn Eng 1.
“We didn’t shoot the ball real well in the first half, and I think we just had to get our nerves under control and calm down a bit. I think we shot the ball a little bit better in the second half,” said Bomber Coach Tim Malone.