Bombers lock in 3rd-straight GRC crown

Braham holds off feisty Isle: Monday night in the Braham gym held grand excitement for the crowd which filled both bleachers. With a conference title on the line for both squads, the Bomber girls held off resilient Isle 66-55 to lock in a share of their third-straight Great River crown.

Becca Dahlman attacked the hoop well again against the Huskies, scoring 38 points and hitting 19-of-22 free throws.

“It’s really fun to get the conference championship on our home court, and we haven’t lost on our home court in a very long time. We knew we had to step up against Isle because they’re a very good team,” said senior point guard Austyn Eng. “This is our seniors’ last year, so if you don’t go out big then it’s not that fun.”

The first half ended with Braham leading 29-28 as both defenses took starring roles. Turnovers were forced, and both teams rebounded well defensively. The Bombers initially relied on the ‘3’ to their offense started, with both Kayla Nickles and Becca Cuda draining two long-rangers, and Becca Dahlman sinking one ‘3’ which had their team out to a 21-15 advantage.

The Huskies chose to attack the lane repeatedly along with mixing in a couple of three-pointers– their weapon that nearly pulled off the upset back on Jan. 5 when Braham won at Isle 71-70. Near the end of the half, Dahlman went on a defensive tear in the backcourt to disrupt the Huskies’ flow, and her 7-of-9 free throw shooting in the half on basket attacks kept the Bombers in the lead.

Senior Austyn Eng (left) came back with a strong second half at point guard in Braham’s 66-55 home win over Isle Feb. 13.

Dahlman kept attacking to start the second half with seven early points, including a sweet three-point play off an inbounds set. Mixed with an Eng steal-and-layup, the Bombers increased their lead slightly to 40-36. The defense began to hamper the Huskies further.

“The coaches said we had to step back a bit because they were driving on us so much in the first half, and we were in foul trouble. It worked,” said Eng of the defensive adjustments in second half.

Kelsey Sorenson-Giffrow and Amanda Sybrant sunk free throws, Nickles finished off a steal, then Dahlman followed a sunk pull-up jumper with an athletic putback off an offensive board as the lead doubled. The advantage reached 11 points when KSG slid inside to sink a shot with two Huskies on her. After Isle got to within 55-49 with 3:52 to play, Dani Braund came through with two big buckets inside.

From there, it was clock wear-down time with Dahlman sinking 7-of-8 free throws in the final 2:12; she finished the game with 38 points (19-of-22 at the line) and 16 rebounds. Nickles had 9 points and 5 boards, and Cuda scored 8.

“The GRC is a goal met as we go along this season. I’m really glad we have the chance to play against teams like Isle. They’re tough to play against because they’re smaller than us; they can get under us and draw fouls. I guess we played better defense this game than in the 71-70 game up there,” said Sorenson-Giffrow. “I think our defense overall has grown so much over this season. We’re finally getting good at help-side defense, and we’re going to need that when we get to sections because we will probably have to play against Esko again if we make it to the section championship.”

“Our girls have good composure because they’ve played in big games. At a certain point when we’re up by 10 points, we have good ballhandlers who are capable of wearing down the clock. And you’ve got to make the free throws; we finished 23-of-29 against Isle,” analyzed Coached Tim Malone. “I’m very proud of their effort to repeat as conference champions.”

Coach Tim Malone congratulated his Bombers for grinding out their 46th straight GRC victory over a good and gritty Isle squad.

GRC Girls Basketball

Braham 14-0, 22-1; Isle 11-2, 18-5; Rush City 9-3, 12-6; Ogilvie 8-8, 11-10; Aitkin 7-7, 11-11; Pine City 7-7, 10-13; East Central 3-10, 3-17; Onamia 3-11, 4-17; Hinckley-Fin. 0-14, 0-18.

— Photos & story by Greg Hunt

Bomber Boys reach 20-win mark

The Bombers upped their season record to 20-1 by holding off visiting Pierz in non-conference action Saturday night. Leading scorers for Braham were Tyler Vaughan (28), Anthony Bias (18), Shaun Hollenkamp (14) and Cameron Braund (7). Vaughan also led on the boards with 13 rebounds and added 7 assists.

• On Feb. 14, Braham defeated visiting Christ Household of Faith 85-46. Vaughan doubled-up with 25 points and 11 assists.  Next top scorers were Bias (17), Drew Klemz (11 w/5 rebounds), Braund (10 w/7 rebounds), Hollenkamp (9) and Zach Dahlman (8 w/7 rebounds).

GRC Boys Basketball

Braham 14-0, 21-1; Hinckley-Fin. 10-4, 10-7; Isle 9-5, 13-7; Rush City 7-6, 7-10; Ogilvie 7-7, 8-8; Aitkin 6-8, 8-12; Onamia 5-8, 7-13; Pine City 3-11, 4-17; East Central 1-13, 1-18.

Magic tips C-I Boys in OT

The Magic sunk the game-winner with 1.1 seconds left in the first overtime session to sweep the Bluejackets in the Mississippi 8 boys basketball series this season. Leading scorers for Cambridge-Isanti were Tom Selz (21), Jonah Poppen (12) and Matt Swanson (10).

• Visiting Minneapolis Washburn defeated the C-I boys 78-47 Feb. 14. Top scorers for the Jackets were Hunter Vavra (9), Chris Olson (9), and Selz (8).

M-8 Boys Basketball

St. Michael-Alb. 8-1, 17-5; Buffalo 7-1, 15-7; Rogers 6-2, 14-6; Big Lake 5-4, 10-12; Monticello 3-6, 3-18; Becker 1-8, 5-15; Cambridge-Isanti 0-8, 2-19.