FC (5-seed, 15-12) and Kingsland (3-seed, 17-10) came into the 1A East girls semis as the “underdogs.” R-P (1-seed, 19-6) and M-C (2-seed, 20-7) came as the favorites. But amongst the top five seeds, there was a lot of parity this year. Tournament results were apropos. Teams that hadn’t won in the regular season, won. Sophomores came up huge in the semis, as teams with the most depth trumped those with the top individuals. In the finals, a rookie head coach led his seed-underdogs to glory, their second Section 1A title game in three years.
In the first semi, R-P led FC 23-8 early. But Trojan senior guard Savannah Skalet got her third foul. The game changed. After missing their first eight threes, FC went 3-of-6, closing the half on a 15-6 run. They trailed 29-23 at the break. Early in the second, the Trojans made three straight field goals (35-28). It took 16 possessions to get three more. FC reserve sophomore guard Madison Scheevel hit her third trifecta to give the Falcons a 41-39 lead (first since 2-0). Scheevel then hit back-to-back triples to put FC up 49-45. R-P went 2-of-9 at the stripe in the final nine minutes (missed seven straight). They missed six of seven shots in the last five minutes (the first six). After two season sweeps, Levi Olstad’s Falcons upended R-P 56-49. Tayah Barnes was high-girl (19 pts, 8-11 FTs, 3-10 threes, 6 rebs). Scheevel (career-high 17 pts, 5-9 threes) was the story, though (previous high of 8, average of 2 PPG). Kenzie Broadwater (5 pts, 5 rebs, 9 assists, 5 stls) and Paige Bennett (5 pts, 7 rebs, 3 assists) helped. Brianna Koop (21 pts, 6-11 FGs, 9-15 FTs, 11 rebs) and Mikayla Crawford (13 pts, 5-7 FGs, 3-4 FTs, 5 stls) led R-P. Threes (FC 8-25, RP 1-11) and turnovers (FC 13, RP 21) were key. It’s a tough end (19-7) for Terry Pelzl’s defending 1A East champs, led by seniors Koop, Crawford, and Skalet. It’s R-P’s first semifinal elimination since 2011.
The semifinal nightcap had Jake Vetter’s Kingsland Knights, last year’s 1A East runner-up, in their element at Mayo Civic Center. They started the game 10-0 and 19-4. M-C’s first seven points came from 8th grader Kenidi McCabe. Kingsland led by as many as 19 (32-13) in the first and 14 (32-18) at halftime. The Cougars got to 33-25 in the second. Knight sophomore Lauren Buchholtz scored 11 straight points, the last, a dagger-three, gave team double-K a 50-32 lead (5:21). Never trailing, Kingsland avenged a 39-35 loss with a 63-43 win. Buchholtz (career-high 20 pts, 9-14 FGs, 7 rebs, 5 stls) and senior Kailey Link (18 pts, 7-12 FTs) were at their best in the defense-to-offense transition game. The Schmidt’s, Courtney (10 pts, 4-4 FTs, 5 rebs) and Gracie (4 pts, 9 rebs), helped. Kingsland hit 10 straight free throws to end the game. M-C’s Coranda Vickerman (17 pts, 7 rebs, 5 assists, 3 stls) typically scored past/around multiple Knights. Courtney Graves added 9 (pts) and 7 (rebs). Adam Wilder’s Cougars finish 20-8. They won the SEC-East and posted their first 20-win season since 2004-2005.
For the 1A East title, FC (5-seed, 16-12) took on Kingsland (3-seed, 18-10). The Falcons took the lead at 10-8 and never relinquished it. Kingsland couldn’t solve FC’s 1-3-1 zone. They had thirteen first half turnovers. At half, it was just a 25-22 Falcon lead, though. A few minutes into the second, up 29-28, FC scored on seven straight possessions, a 16-5 run. Barnes hit big back-to-back threes. Up 45-33, and with a one-girl press-break in point guard Broadwater, FC was in good shape. The Knights finally spurted 12-2 real late (55-51). But Broadwater then nailed two free throws (57-51 > 0:44.5). After losing four straight to end the regular season, 5-seed FC beat three teams it was 0-4 against on the year, including Kingsland 59-53, for the East title. Seniors Barnes (18 pts, 4-8 threes, 5 assists), Broadwater (15 pts, 7-10 FTs, 6 assists, 7 stls), and Kendyl Bennett (12 pts) led the way. Buchholtz (19 pts, 8 rebs) continued her excellent post-season to lead Kingsland. C-Schmidt (12 pts, 5 assists), Link (10 pts, 7 rebs), and Kori Kruegel (8 pts, off the bench) helped. Turnovers (14 to 22) and the free throw line (15 of 26 to 8 of 17) favored FC. The teams shot near the same in the first (FC 8 of 22, K 9 of 22), second (FC 12 of 28, K 12 of 29), and game (FC 20 of 50, K 21 of 51). FC (17-12) moves on to face defending state champion #2 Goodhue (1-seed, 24-4). Jake Vetter’s girls (18-11) are repeat 1A East runner-up. They lose a great eight senior group (C-Schmidt, Link, G-Schmidt, Alayna Meskill, Kellynn Webster, Courtney Fate, Ericka Kolden, Stephanie Miner)