Rasmusson, Strand key to Otter victoryPublished 12:02pm Monday, March 11, 2013
The Alexandria Cardinals challenged the Otters in Friday’s Section 8AAA championship with a full court defense that, as he said in his post game interview, even surprised head coach Brad Strand with how effective it was. But through the miscues that the pressure brought, two key performances, Brianna Rasmusson’s 14 point first half and Bailey Strands 11 in the second, gave the Otters an edge in a game that came down to the last shot.
Rasmusson scored the first points of the game with a three pointer and would end the half with another as time expired. Those six points, along with eight more in the half, set the pace for the Otters early, as they held a 31-22 lead at halftime. Rasmusson would end the game with a team leading 19 points, thanks in part to her speed pushing the Otters up the court on fast breaks. That kept the Cardinals behind for most of the game, but foul trouble in the second held Rasmusson to a much more conservative style of play.
Where Rasmusson left off, Strand would pick up in the second. A three pointer by Strand and two shots from the top of the key kept Alexandria behind during their push to overtake the Otters in the final minutes. Strand’s composure at the foul line for the entire game, including four important free throws in the second, helped her go 11-13 for free throws on the night and accounted for the majority of her 18 points.
The intensity that the rival Cardinals brought was no surprise for Rasmusson or Strand, despite the two previous meetings between the teams that saw the Otters win handily.
“Alex always comes out prepared to challenge us,” said Rasmusson, who said she knew it would not only be difficult to beat a team three times in one season, but also to win the section championship two years in a row.
“It’s Alex,” said Strand of the game that mixed rivalry and championship atmospheres. “We just trusted all the hours we’ve put in to get here.”
As for the foul trouble that plagued her for much of the second half, Rasmusson said it was the help of her teammates that kept her in the game.
“My teammates stepped up when I couldn’t and really took the heat off me,” said Rasmusson.
That help included six second half points from Anna Monke, who ended with nine points and seven rebounds, and six offensive rebounds by Hannah Swenson, many of which led to putbacks that contributed to her 7 points in the game.
The one-point victory comes after another scare in the team’s last game, when the Sartell-St. Michael Sabres were even with the Otters, 24-24, at halftime. But with the success and preparation from the entire season, Strand is confident the team will have what it takes to make a showing at state.
“If we keep up the pressure and playing our kind of defense, the offense will come,” Strand said.