Top-seed Duluth East was too strong and too fast for the Cambridge-Isanti girls while cruising to a 68-51 victory in the Section 7AAAA championship March 9 at North Branch. Greyhound point guard Shamika Hopkins set the pace with 21 points, and 6’2″ center Elena Lushine pounded the boards for 19 rebounds while adding 8 points.
East (22-5) reaches the Class 4A quarterfinals which open the morning of Wednesday, March 14. Seeding for the top four. The Greyhounds will take on No. 2 seed Edina (25-4) in the 2 p.m. matchup.
Mississippi 8 runner-up St. Michael-Albertville earned a berth in the 4A State tourney by defeating M-8 champ Buffalo in the Section 8AAAA finals. The Knights (22-7) play No. 4 seed Eastview (24-5) in the 4 p.m. quarterfinals on Wednesday at the Target Center.
Multiple sloppy passes leading to turnovers and easy Greyhound buckets hurt the Bluejackets in the first half when they trailed 37-25 at the break, finishing with a Semeka Hopkins’ breakaway at the buzzer.
C-I’s best spark came when Bryn Liljander hit a three-pointer, Lily Porta finished off a three-point play, then Liljander fed Whitney Olson for a ’3′ and Porta for a sweet play inside which cut the deficit to seven at 48-41 with 11:12 to go.
But East regrouped, began attacking the hoop & offensive boards (12 O-boards for the game) and soon rebuilt a 65-50 edge when Hopkins got inside for a three-point play with under seven minutes to play. The ‘Hounds then began draining the clock on long possessions and shot well enough at the line to hold off the Jackets who couldn’t get the ’3s’ to drop.
The Bluejackets close the season at 20-9. Senior Olson led in scoring with 25 points and went over the 2,000-point career mark on a first-half shot behind the arc. Fellow senior Natalie Larson scored 5 and led C-I with 8 rebounds. Liljander scored 8, with Paige Muehlhauser and Porta adding 5 points each.
“Duluth East came in and played a great game. We knew their sets, we knew their defense, and we still had no answer that night,” said C-I Coach Jody Ledahl. “We’ve overcome a number of half-time deficits this season so we still felt good about working ourselves back into the ball game at half. We had a couple runs the second half but just couldn’t get over the hump. The kids gave their all.”