Late 3-pointers help Albany advance

to Class AA championship

Throughout the entirety of its Minnesota State High School League Class AA Girls Basketball State Tournament semifinals matchup March 17, the Albany Huskies girls basketball team were met with resistance. 

The Goodhue Wildcats led for two-thirds of the physical, defensive showdown, forcing Huskie turnovers and keeping Albany’s dominant inside game and precise dribble drives from taking over the game. 

However, when it counted, the Huskies’ high-arcing 3-point shots fell, with junior guard Tatum Findley knocking down the game-winning shot with 1 minute and 10 seconds remaining in a 48-45 win that sent the Huskies to its second state finals trip in three seasons.

“Never give up,” said Kylan Gerads, junior forward. “It seems cliché, but there was a lot of time on the clock, so we just kept going and playing as hard as we could because we wanted to win.”

Findley’s ice-cold make was almost never possible, as No. 3 seed Albany remained multiple scores behind the second-seeded Wildcats throughout much of the second half. Kendyl Lodermeier’s 19-point, six rebound performance kept Goodhue in the driver’s seat, while Jada Scheele’s three-point play gave the vigilant, well-coached Wildcats a 38-33 lead with 7:13 to play.

“They’re consistently long and very strong,” said Aaron Boyum, head coach. “They really make you work and bang, so rebounding was something we really had to do. They have girls that are really, really explosive off the dribble.”

It was following this downbeat, difficult series of events that the Huskies caught fire from deep. Findley, who struggled with turnovers and often saw her quick drives to the net end without points, drilled a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to two. After Lodermeier connected on a contested jumper, Albany’s Alyssa Sand received a feed from point guard Savanna Pelzer and beat her defender to the net. 

The teams traded another pair of buckets, with Goodhue’s Elizabeth Gadient’s strong-willed layup being immediately matched by the efforts of Gerads, who drew a foul on the offensive end and hit both of her free throws.

“Since we’ve been there multiple times this season, knowing the situation and being composed and calm helps,” Sand said.

In a game with so little margin for error and the large-spanning audience watching, Albany made the most of its late possessions. Pelzer slid her 5-foot, 4-inch frame into the crowded paint and laid a gutsy layup home to tie the game before Eva Schwenzfeier, off the bench, drained the biggest shot of her life to that point, a big-time 3-pointer to provide Albany its first lead in 14 minutes.

“It was girls really honing in and focusing in on what they had to do individually and collectively to what they could accomplish as a team,” Boyum said.

Goodhue tied the game at 45 off yet another score from Lodermeier, setting the stage for Findley’s clutch shot, which was set up by a dribble drive from Gerads, who felt Goodhue’s interior pressure and kicked it out to her longtime Albany teammates for the look. Despite the high-pressure situation, the Huskies’ leading scorer for the contest swished it through the hoop.

“I was out there and I knew I had to hit it,” Findley said. “I was confident in my shot.”

Even with the Albany crowd in an excited uproar and the team rejuvenated, Goodhue still had the opportunity to tie the game twice. The Wildcats turned it over with 51 seconds left before the Huskies committed its 16th giveaway, granting Goodhue another shot. After a timeout to scheme up a gameplan, Goodhue returned to the court and got the ball to its point guard Gadient for its final opportunity.

“I saw her have the ball and I knew she was a shooter, so I went up and threw my hand up as high as I could,” Gerads said. “(I started thinking) ‘Please don’t go in. Please don’t go in.’” I saw it fall short and I was like, ‘Someone get the rebound! Someone get the rebound!” 

Grabbing the board, of course, was Findley, whose hustle and determination proved critical in Albany advancing to the state championship. For the third consecutive year, the Huskies will take on the Providence Academy Lions in the Class AA playoffs in a rematch of the 2021 title bout at 2 p.m. Saturday, March 18, at Williams Arena in Minneapolis. 

“I think the two teams know each other very well,” Boyum said. “We’ve going to give it everything we can.”

ALB      21        27        48

GOOD  18        27        45

Findley 13 points (3R, 4A), Gerads 12 (4R), Pelzer 7 (5R, 3A), Sand 6 (6R, 4B), Samantha VanHeel 3 (4R), Schwenzfeier 3, Callie Holthaus 2 and Natalie Blonigen 2.