Tigers claw Pioneers and end girls' basketball season

The Hill-Murray Pioneers advanced to the Minnesota State High School Class AAA Girls' State Tournament with a convincing march through the Section 4AAA playoffs.

On their way to the "State" Hill-Murray beat Johnson 72-42, South St. Paul 52-45 and Highland Park 52-37. It was the third straight year that the Pioneers found themselves in the classic. This year, however, was a different experience for Hill-Murray. 

They had graduated the nucleus of a team which had twice advanced to the championship game. The team this season was in a rebuilding mode and as a result they were pleasantly surprised to find themselves seeded No. 4 in the tournament. 

Their opponent, the Hutchinson Tigers, seemed unimpressed. The Tigers got the lead with just over six minutes elapsed in the game and never gave it back. 

A solid defense combined with a low shooting percentage for the Pioneers resulted in a 31-24 Hutchinson halftime lead and eventual 68-51 victory. 

"When you can't put the ball in the net you don't win games," stated Hill-Murray veteran head coach Erin Herman. "We couldn't hit and we didn't win. We had the shots, we just didn't connect. They are a good team. They hurt us inside. They took away the high/low post. Their players moved on us, particularly Alissa Retterath and Nichole Wittman. We just do a very good job defending them. But I'm proud of our kids. I don't think anyone expected that we would be here," Herman said.

"We have only two seniors (Tessa Cichy and Claire Van Dyk) and if it wasn't for them and their leadership through the whole season, we wouldn't have made it to where we are. They have had just a great year."

But the statistics show the better team on the court for the opening of the Class AAA State Championship game. From the floor the Tigers shot at percentage of 44.7, while Hill-Murray was only 33.3 percent. From the 3-point range Hutchinson went 5-for-11 for 45.5 percent, while Hill-Murray hit on 1-for-9 for just 11.1 percent. Then, from the free throw line the Tigers hit on 21-of-33 for a 63.6 percentage while Hill-Murray matched them but only had 18 chances and hit on 12 of them for a 66,7 percent. 

Down the stretch Hutchinson went 11-for-14 from the charity stripe until the game was out of reach and they inserted their spares and missed the final four shots from the line. 

Leading with a game-high 20 points was Wittman while Retterman had 16. For the Pioneers Kaitlin Langer scored 18 points followed by, Cichy 11, Van Dyk 10, Olivia Graskewicz 5, Tessa Doolittle 3, Allison Angeli and Dana Savino with 2. The Pioneers wrapped up the season with an overall mark of 22-8. 

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