State tournament: Athletics finish in fourth, look towards next season
Published 3:55 pm Saturday, March 21, 2015
ST. PAUL — It was like night and day for the Lyle-Pacelli girls basketball team from the first half to the second half in the Class A third place game in Concordia University in St. Paul Saturday.
The Athletics led by as many as 11 points in the first half, but they ended up losing 65-59 to Minneota (29-5 overall).
The turning point came for LP when starters Madison Truckenmiller and Courtney Walter each fouled out on back-to-back plays with nine minutes left in the contest. LP trailed 47-46 at that time and the Vikings went on an 8-0 run over the next three minutes by cranking up the full court defensive pressure.
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Morris said he left Courtney and Truckenmiller in the game with four fouls because it was the last game of the season and he wanted to give them as much of a chance to compete as he could.
“We were just going to let them play and if they were going to go down, they were going to go down playing maximum minutes,” Morris said. “We just went through a stretch where things got away from us, but our kids never stopped working. I’m incredibly proud of this team.”
LP (26-5 overall) pulled to within 56-52 with 3:30 left in the game after a lay-up by Brooke Walter, but the team could get no closer down the stretch. LP had a chance to pull within two with 1:05 left in the game, but Minneota’s Taylor Reiss blocked Brooke, who had 18 points and six assists, on a lay-up attempt.
Reiss is a 3,000 point scorer and she finished with 15 points and 17 rebounds.
LP’s Sarah Holtz finished with 18 points in the loss and she said it was tough to play the last nine minutes without two of the squad’s veterans.
“It was very tough. I think with Madison and Courtney out, we’re a very different team,” Holtz said. “Everyone was all in and we were willing to fight for it. I think that’s what matters.”
A fourth place finish at state for the Athletics is an accomplishment for an LP squad that had never played in a state tournament before, but it had to hurt the Athletics when Ada-Borup went on to win the Class A state title 82-65. The Athletics lost 54-52 to the Cougars in the semifinals.
“Coming up here with such high expectations and getting so close to our reaching our goals is really hard,” Holtz said. “I think if we put in the time and the effort, we can definitely make it back. Next time we’re going to do it.”
Due to the foul trouble, LP was forced to play a lot of young players down the stretch against Minneota. Sophomore Caitlin Roberts logged in 16 minutes and she had three points and four rebounds, eighth grader Lucy Nelson and seventh grader Olivia Christianson also played key minutes down the stretch.
Morris is hoping he’s able to play more players on a consistent basis next season. LP will graduate just one rotation player from this year’s team.
“I think we’re going to be a better team next year. I think we’ll be able to play nine or eleven kids,” Morris said. “Those younger kids have older kids to look up to as an example. If you work hard and if you put in time this is what the end goal can be, this is what’ s at the end of the rainbow.”
Holtz said she’s excited to next year, but it’s also important for the Athletics to embrace what they did this season. She said her favorite moment was when LP finally won a Section 1A West title after it beat Goodhue in Rochester.
“That’ was when it hit us that we could potentially go to the state tournament,” Holtz said. “The excitement we had was unbelievable and that’s when we were at our best and we were really connecting.”
Morris said this summer will be the most important offseason in LP history and he’s hoping his team puts in the necessary work to be a contender again next season.
“Our mantra last year was unfinished business based on the section. We feel like we still have unfinished business, it’s just a different kind of unfinished business,” Morris said. “We hope to get back to the state tournament and try and get it done.”
Minneota 28 37 — 65
LP 34 25 — 59
LP scoring: Sarah Holtz, 18; Brooke Walter, 18; Courtney Walter, 8; Madison Truckenmiller, 6; Bethany Strouf, 4; Caitlin Roberts, 3; Kendal Truckenmiller, 2; field goals: 39 percent (18-for-46); 3-pointers: 28 percent (5-for-18); free throws: 82 percent (18-for-22); rebounds: 29 (Strouf, 6); turnovers: 21