Title dreams dashed for OttersPublished 11:03am Friday, March 16, 2012 Updated 11:03am Friday, March 16, 2012
All season long, the Fergus Falls Otters girls basketball team wore down their foes with superior talent and conditioning. On Thursday in the AAA state semifinal game, they got a taste of their own medicine at Minneapolis’ Target Center against DeLaSalle.
“Their physicality wore on us and wore on us,” said Fergus Falls head coach Josh Mohagen.
The Otters players agree.
“I knew my teammates had a hard time feeding me down low,” said Otter senior Mariah Monke, who scored a team-high 13 points and had five rebounds.
FF only nailed down two 3-pointers, after making 10 3-pointers in Wednesday’s quarterfinal victory, against the Islanders and fell 59-51 to end its state title hopes.
The Islander size, challenging speed and tough full-court press, along with a stifling match-up zone allowed only two Otters to score in double figures, including Sydney Schultz, who scored 12 points.
“They’re a really strong team, and challenged nearly all of our shots” said Fergus Falls’ Brianna Rasmusson, who was held to zero 3-pointers and seven points in the setback.
The Islanders (27-3) will attempt to hoist the state trophy for the second straight year on Saturday, when they will take on Richfield (27-4), who defeated Hutchinson 45-28 at 6 p.m. at the Target Center. The Otters (27-3) will battle Hutchinson in the third-place game on Saturday at Concordia University in St. Paul at 2 p.m.
The Otters took an early 10-2 lead, due to made field goal attempts by every FF starter — Rasmusson, Haylie Zenner, Anna Monke, Mariah Monke and Schultz – in the first five minutes of the contest.
Fergus Falls would extend the lead to 10 points, 17-7, thanks in part to Mohagen’s excitement.
“Early on we played with such great intensity,” he said. “That got us to the huge start against an incredibly talented team.”
The Islanders tightened up their play on both ends of the court, and ended the first frame on a 21-8 run.
“We were extending our defense too far from the basket,” said Islander coach Faith Johnson Patterson. “We had to defend the basket better. If they were going to shoot three-pointers, let them. We couldn’t keep giving them easy baskets.”
FF was 1-for-6 from behind the 3-point line in the first half, and found themselves down 28-25 at halftime.
“We knew we had adjustments to make,” said Rasmusson
DeLaSalle was kept at bay at the start of the second half, when Zenner made back-to-back field goals to cut the lead to two, 30-28. From there, DeLaSalle was extremely tough down the stretch.
Up by seven points, Islander Allina Starr made a quick steal a big 3-pointer, to give the defending state champion a 10 point lead, 43-33, with 11 minutes to go. The Otters looked extremely frustrated at times,
“You give them anything and they will capitalize,” said Mariah Monke. “They pressure so hard on the ball.”
While the pressure was intense, the Otters weren’t done.
Spurred on by a large crowd and a spirited pep band, the Otters started to make a comeback. After a Zenner layup, FF was down by eight, 54-46.
Schultz, who had the wind knocked out of her and left the court for nearly one minute, drained a 3-pointer, to cut the lead to five points, 54-49, with 1:21 left.
Mariah Adanene made an easy bucket, with 50 seconds left to go, which sealed the deal for DeLaSalle.
All-state performer Tyseanna Johnson scored 16 for the Islanders, and teammate Mia Loyd scored 12. Starr put up 11 points.
Zenner finished with seven points, and two steals, while teammate Hanna Swenson scored six, as did Anna Monke. Rasmusson and Anna Monke both grabbed a team-high six rebounds. Schultz and Zenner both recorded five rebounds.
The Otters now turn their attention to Hutchinson, and a chance to earn a third-place trophy for Fergus Falls, which would be the highest placing since 1957, according to Mohagen..
“Winning a third-place medal would be a great accomplishment,” said Rasmusson.