The Cambridge-Isanti girls went 1-1 in the Section 7AAAA basketball playoffs, opening with a 59-31 victory over Duluth East in the final home game of the season on March 6.
The game was close at the half with the Bluejackets ahead 29-22, then the C-I girls led with defense while enjoying a 19-4 spurt to start the second half. Shelby Swanson scored five points in that run which also included six points from Maria Vavra along with makes from Justine Larson and Brooke Olson.
“We were playing good discipline defense. The girls did a good job of pressuring the ball and making it difficult for East to get into their offense,” said C-I Coach Jody Ledahl. “We did a good job of being in gap and midline protection. We also did a great job of rebounding. They were one-and-done on almost every possession.”
Larson finished with 15 points and 8 rebounds against East, and Lily Porta was next with 13 points. Vavra (8 points, 6 rebounds), Swanson (7 points, 6 rebounds), and Olson (8 points, 5 rebounds) also contributed mightily to the Bluejackets’ 47-26 edge on the boards against the Greyhounds.
Tall Tornadoes too much to overcome
The win sent Cambridge-Isanti to the March 10 Section 7AAAA semifinals at North Branch against defending champ Anoka. The Bluejackets’ season came to a close with a 16-11 record when the tall Tornadoes prevailed 70-51.
Anoka jumped out to an 11-3 lead in the opening minutes, and C-I was stymied on how to attack the long wingspan the Tornadoes employed in their 2-3 zone. But two inside scores from Larson, an Olson three-point play and a Vavra ‘3’ pulled C-I to within 14-13.
From there, a string of Jacket turnovers helped fuel a 12-0 run by Anoka which featured the scoring of 6’1” Claire Lundberg and guard Naomi Torgerson. The Tornadoes finished the first half with a 29-19 advantage.
“We knew going in that we would probably have some difficulty scoring over their length. We were hoping to attack the zone with a high post or dribble penetration. When we were able to penetrate the zone, they recovered so quickly and their wingspan made up for the step or two separation that we did create,” described Coach Ledahl. “What I was probably most impressed with was how physical they played us. In the games that I had watched of them previously, they had not played that physical– but that’s playoff basketball.”
Three-pointers from Porta and Vavra kept the Jackets close to start the second half, but again the Tornadoes countered with Lundberg points to eventually build their largest lead at 50-30 with 7:23 to play. The Jackets kept scrapping and hustling, with Porta and Larson hitting ‘3s’ down the final minutes.
“Our effort level has been outstanding all season and last night was no different. Even in the last minute, our kids kept encouraging each other to finish the game strongly,” said Coach Ledahl. “This has been a great group to work with and a very rewarding season.”
The season is the last for out-going senior captains Larson and Swanson.
“Justine and Shelby are outstanding individuals. They represent everything good that you want your basketball program to represent,” finished Coach Ledahl. “They have done a great job and will be missed.”