The road to the final high school winter sports state tournament begins this week for the Bulletin-area girls basketball teams. All three teams face tough tasks in their respective section tournaments.
St. Anthony Village
Following a 1-10 start to the season, the Huskies made a nice turnaround and fell one victory shy of a .500 record. St. Anthony went 11-4 in the second half of the season and made a surprising run to the finals of the Tri-Metro Conference tournament.
Making a run in Section 3AAA won’t be as easy.
St. Anthony is the fifth seed and goes on the road in the quarterfinals on Thursday. Hosting the Huskies is fourth-seeded St. Paul Como Park, which went 12-3 in its final 15 games following a 3-5 start to the season.
One of Como’s early victories was a 72-63 win over St. Anthony on Dec. 19. The loss gave the Huskies a 0-7 record to start the season.
St. Anthony got things turned around starting in late December with a win over Spring Lake Park that started the Huskies on a six-game winning streak. They also rattled off four straight wins in February.
Part of that streak included a pair of upsets in the conference tournament. St. Anthony was the sixth seed and knocked off third-seeded Minnehaha Academy and second-seeded Concordia Academy to reach the finals.
In the championship game on Friday, St. Anthony traveled to top-seeded St. Croix Lutheran, which was ranked sixth in the state in Class AA last week. The Huskies put together an 8-0 run in the first half to turn a six-point deficit into a two-point lead but the Crusaders took over following a timeout.
St. Croix stopped St. Anthony’s run and went on a 14-0 run of its own and allowed only two more points the rest of the first half, which ended with the Huskies trailing 26-12.
Things weren’t much better in the second half as St. Croix outscored St. Anthony 24-17 to win 50-29.
Kelly Lawson led St. Anthony with 14 points but was one of only four Huskies to score.
The section playoffs continue March 11 with the semifinals at Maple Grove High School. If St. Anthony can upset Como Park, it will likely face top-seeded and second-ranked Park Center. The Pirates host eighth-seeded St. Paul Johnson in the first round.
Although the Knights are seeded seventh in the Section 5AAAA playoffs, they enter the post-season with the longest current winning streak among their section foes. Irondale closed out the regular season on a seven-game surge and finished with a .500 record (13-13).
That is Irondale’s best regular-season record since going 15-9 in 2009.
To improve on its record and extend that winning streak, seventh-seeded Irondale must find a way to deal with second-seeded Champlin Park. The Rebels won their final four regular-season games, including a two-point victory over top-seeded and seventh-ranked Centennial.
Irondale enters Thursday’s game trying to preserve one streak while trying to end another. The Knights would like to put an end to their eight-game post-season losing streak that dates back to 2006, the last year they won a section playoff game.
That year, Irondale went 16-10 in the regular season and earned a home playoff game against district rival Mounds View. The Knights beat the Mustangs 71-66 but lost in the next round to Park Center. Irondale has been one-and-done in the playoffs every year since.
The Irondale/Champlin Park winner advances to the semifinals on March 11 at Anoka High School against either third-seeded Maple Grove or sixth-seeded Mounds View.
The section final is March 14 at Anoka High School.
The Mustangs suffered through their worst season in six years but now turn their attention to the post-season. Mounds View drew the sixth-seed in Section 5AAAA and head out on the road in the first round on Thursday.
Awaiting Mounds View’s visit is third-seeded Maple Grove. The Crimson at one point this season were 14-8 and riding a five-game winning streak before losing three of the final four regular-season games.
Mounds View started the year having posted winning records in its previous five seasons. Following a 3-1 start, the Mustangs won just six of their final 22 contests.
Should the Mustangs pull off the upset, they would face either second-seeded Champlin Park or seventh-seeded Irondale in the semifinals on March 11 at Anoka High School.
Anoka is also the site of the section final on March 14.
Brian Meyers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .