The Anoka girls captured their second Section 7AAAA championship and subsequent State berth over a three-year span by putting together a strong finish in last week’s games at North Branch.
The semifinals between the No. 2 seed Tornadoes and No. 3 Cambridge-Isanti was postponed to March 6. Both teams began the night cold offensively, but scoring heated up in the second half as Anoka went on to win 64-50.
The game was tied at 10-10 when C-I’s Maria Vavra hit a jumper, Lily Porta fed Amanda Hanson for a baseline jumper and Sydney Larkin dished to Paige Muehlhauser for a bucket. Then Anoka went into their 2-3 zone, with their long bodies and arm-reach covering the lanes and stymying the Bluejackets’ offensive flow. C-I went for a long stretch of not scoring until Brynn Liljander hit a running one-hander which made it 21-12 Anoka leading at the break.
The Bluejackets countered by coming out with a full-court press to start the second half. Free throws by Justine Larson and Liljander finding openings for consecutive field goals had the C-I’s point total rising, along with Larson’s blocks at the other end limiting Anoka’s damage.
When Porta hit two free throws at the 12:00 mark, the Jackets were within 31-25. That’s when Anoka took over the game by crashing the offensive glass hard. Claire Lundberg, Amber Bray and Kyrah Fredenburg all converted rebounds into points as their lead shot to 49-29 with 6:30 to play.
Later, the Bluejackets made their one last counter move with a 9-0 run that got them to within 52-40 which included free throws from Larkin, Porta and Hanson, along with a Liljander ‘3’. Fredenburg did a good job hitting her free throws down the foul-time final stretch to keep the Jackets at bay the rest of the way.
Senior Liljander scored 17 points in her final game for the Bluejackets. Classmate Hanson scored 12 and had 6 rebounds, and fellow senior Muehlhauser had 6 rebounds to go with 2 points. Porta added 10 points and 3 rebounds, Larkin had 4 points and 5 rebounds, and Larson finished with 3 points.
The Bluejackets close the season with a 17-11 record.
• In the March 15 Section 7AAAA championship, Anoka knocked out No. 1 seed Forest Lake 64-60 in overtime back at North Branch. Lundberg kept up her hot playoff scoring pace with 30 points, and Abby Torgerson scored 18.
Anoka (20-9) plays No. 2 seed Bloomington Kennedy (26-3) in the Class 4A quarterfinals March 13 at the Target Center. In the other half of the brackets, 2013 Mississippi 8 champion St. Michael-Albertville (24-5) drew No. 1 seed Hopkins (28-1) for the opening round after winning the Section 8AAAA title.
Forest Lake defeats C-I boys in 7AAAAs
In the Section 7AAAA boys basketball quarterfinals on March 7, N. 6 seed Cambridge-Isanti was ousted by No. 3 Forest Lake 83-62. The Bluejackets close the 2013 season with a 7-20 record.
Junior guard Matt Degendorfer led the Rangers with 25 points, and sophomore guard Connor Knutson added 24. The Bluejackets were led by soph guard Kyle McDonald’s 24 points.
Also scoring for C-I were Matt Swanson (12), Nate Cox (9), senior Aaron Allen (8), Hunter Vavra (5) and Jake Johnson (4).
Forest Lake kept advancing by downing No. 2 Duluth East 62-37 in the March 11 semifinals at North Branch. The Rangers (12-16) will take on No. 4 Andover (9-19) for the 7AAAA championship March 15 back at North Branch. The Huskies upset No. 1 seed St. Francis 76-58 in the other semifinals Monday evening.
• Buffalo and St. Michael-Albertville, who tied atop the M-8 boys hoops standings at 9-1 this year, met in the Section 8AAAA quarterfinals last week. The Bison clipped the Knights 45-39 in the rubber game. Buffalo was then defeated 74-63 by No. 1 seed Brainerd Monday night– ending the conference’s last chance in the 2013 playoffs.