Otters win clash of No. 1s, 70-63Published 8:18am Saturday, December 29, 2012
Here’s some basketball “new math”: one plus one equals WOW! Now Coach Strand may not teach this formula in his high school math classes, but he professes it on the basketball court, and a large crowd of fans at the Birak Shrine Club Holiday Tournament came to understand the formula quite well Friday night.
They witnessed the No. 1 ranked (Class AAA) Fergus Falls Otter girls persevere over the No. 1 ranked (Class A) Mt. Iron-Buhl Rangers as they played one of the best high school basketball games in the state this season, with the Otters prevailing by a score of 70-63.
With the win the Otters received the tournament championship trophy and should remain the No. 1 ranked team in Class AAA. And if pollsters know anything about basketball, Mt. Iron-Buhl should still retain their No. 1 ranking in Class A, as they proved themselves quite well in pushing the Otters to the limit and providing a precision offensive game that is both productive and exciting to watch.
The Otters started out strong in the early minutes of the game, grabbing a 10-4 lead in the first three minutes. But Mt. Iron-Buhl started dropping three’s, with 8th grade phenom Chelsea Mason making three straight from behind the 3-point arc to pull the Rangers back into the game. At the 10 minute mark, it was 20-20 and the “game was on” as they say. Both teams punched and counter-punched with defensive pressure and exciting offensive plays throughout the rest of the first half and the Rangers walked away with a one point lead at the halftime horn 37-36. 8th graders Mason (14 points) and Mya Buffetta (13 points) had done the majority of the first half scoring for the Rangers, most from behind the arc. The Otters had balanced scoring throughout their starting line-up in the half. Mt. Iron-Buhl had out-rebounded the Otters in the first half, most noticeable in pulling down 10 offensive boards while the Otters only had three. But the Otters made some defensive adjustments in positioning in the post to reverse the rebounding stats and turned up the heat on the three-point arc defensively to dramatically change the 3-point shooting statistic for the Rangers. Not only did they not make a three-point shot in the second half, they didn’t even get one off.
Meanwhile, guards Brianna Rasmusson and Bailey Strand took over the second half for the Otters. Rasmusson hit for 12 points in the half and Strand nine to carry the Otters into the lead by the 12 minute mark which they never relinquished thereafter. Rasmusson hit a big three, followed by another shortly after to extend that lead and the Otter defense continued to wear down the younger Rangers and did the job the rest of the way for the hard fought victory. Part of the small difference in the end may have been the more mature Otter guards wearing down the more youthful guards of Mt. Iron-Buhl.
Chelsea Mason of the Rangers led all scorers with 21 points while Buffetta didn’t score in the second half and finished with her 13 points. For the Otters, Strand finished with 17 points and Rasmusson with 16, while Kristin Traiser netted 12. Rebounding finished almost even between the teams and turnovers were also close with the Otters having 17 and the Rangers 19. The Otters had 19 assisted baskets with Rasmusson again leading the way with nine and Strand adding five. The Otters shot 49 percent from the field while Mt. Iron-Buhl shot 34 percent.
For their efforts over the two-game tournament, Brianna Rasmusson and Bailey Strand were selected to the all-tournament team. Chelsea Mason and Allie Knuti were selected for the Rangers.
“I thought this was a great basketball game and the fans recognized that and really got into it,” stated Otter coach Brad Strand. “Players and coaches from both teams commented afterwards that this was great competition and a hard fought well-played game like this will help us both be ready for the rest of the season. Bri and Bailey made have led us in scoring, but we had six players with seven or more points and that balance played a large part in our victory.
Mt. Iron-Buhl won the JV championship over Fergus Falls 47-30. Ashley Reinertson led the Otters with 12 points and six rebounds. Amber Boese and Reinertson were named to the JV all-tournament team.
The Otters will go into the year 2013 portion of the season with an 8-0 record, a holiday tournament championship trophy, and the No. 1 ranking in their class intact. Their next game is Friday, Jan 4. at home against the Rocori Spartans.