As evidenced by its run to a state title in 2021, the Albany Huskies are not afraid of a challenge.
In the Class AA quarterfinals March 16, the Rochester Lourdes Eagles drew a lot of early fouls and used its combination of speed and size to pressure Albany’s 2-3 zone defense.
However, Albany was ready for everything the Eagles threw at them, leading for over 82% of the game in a powerful 57-41 victory at Williams Arena in Minneapolis.
“I think we did a good job of attacking early and running through things, forcing them defend some set plays and I think on the defensive end, we executed our defensive gameplan overall,” said Aaron Boyum, head coach.
The game started rough for the Huskies, as Rochester Lourdes won the opening tip before drawing a foul on Albany center Madi Herkenhoff. After converting 1-of-2 free throws on that possession, the Eagles got the ball back after an Albany travel and scored down low with relative ease, taking a 3-0 lead.
Kylan Gerads was an important stopgap in keeping the Huskies point-for-point early. Bailey Keske got in a passing lane for a huge steal before dishing the ball to Gerads on a 2-on-1 situation, ending in Albany’s first points of the game. From there, Gerads could not be stopped, hitting a 3-pointer and often finding baskets over multiple defenders for tough points. At the half, she had 13 points.
“I think Kylan gives tremendous effort all the time,” Boyum said. “I think that effort and that hustle and that drive, it was good to have that show up at Williams Arena and see the amount of energy and intensity that Kylan plays with.”
Bailey Keske ended the first half with a successful drive to the net, scoring a contested layup with less than a second left to send the Huskies s into the locker room happy, up 22-15.
“It was good to go into the locker room after that,” Gerads said. “We were fired up and had a spark.”
The second half featured far more offense from both sides. Alyssa Sand got the scoring started with a 2-pointer as the two teams traded buckets, with Rochester Lourdes staying within 10 points. That all changed when Danica Findley, a fresh face off the bench, hit a 3-pointer to get the Albany crowd roaring.
“I’m confident that we played more girls (than Rochester Lourdes),” Boyum said. “That attrition, more than anything, really benefitted us as the game went on.”
Rochester Lourdes never got comfortable in the Class AA showdown, logging a 28.3% shooting percentage overall and hitting on only three of its 19 3-pointers. Albany’s defense contested shots and got important rebounds; the Huskies outrebounded the Eagles 44-31, including a combined 24 from Gerads and Sand.
“I think we all just wanted to win so we could play at the Barn again,” Gerads said. “That’s a great experience, so we came out with 100% effort and we dove for floor balls. That makes a big difference.”
With the Huskies holding a double-digit points lead in the final five minutes, the Eagles stayed playing aggressive full-court defense, sending Albany to the line time and time again. And after starting 1-of-4 from the stripe, the Huskies hit 19 of its final 25 attempts, making the shots when they mattered.
“We take pride in trying to do something related to free throws every single practice we’ve had, and we’ve had 56 practices,” Boyum said. “It was good to see our girls go to the stripe and have some free throws in that gym in a space where we’re fortunate enough to play in again on Friday.”
Gerads ended the game with 24 points and 13 rebounds, while Sand also recorded a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds.
The Huskies will look to keep its season alive against a familiar foe in the Providence Academy Lions. The Lions defeated Albany 55-32 in the Granite City Classic Dec. 29 after the Huskies defeated them in last year’s state championship.
“We lost to them at the beginning of the season, but we’ve grown a lot as a team and gotten a lot better,” Gerads said. “We’re ready to play them and see how much the season has done for us, to see where we’re at now.”
RL 15 26 41
ALB 22 35 57
Gerads 24 (13 rebounds), Sand 10 (11R), Keske 9 (4R), Marissa Voigt 6 (3R), Danica Findley 3, Herkenhoff 2, Tatum Findley 2, Joran Carlson 1 and Savanna Pelzer 0 (4R).