In the immediate aftermath of the Class AA third-place game, the Albany Huskies girls' basketball team got together into a huddle and hugged.
The exchange was mostly silent, with the teammates who made a special season happen sharing an important moment following a hard-fought basketball showdown for the ages.
In a battle between two teams that did not want to go home with a loss, Minnehaha Academy seventh-grader Ava Cupito made a game-winning floater with four seconds to go in a 53-52 Redhawks win March 19 at Gangelhoff Center at Concordia University, St. Paul.
“I saw an incredible amount of hart and determination and effort and resiliency,” Boyum said. “Minnehaha really stormed back, and we responded really well. We just couldn’t hang on in the end.”
Albany could not have scripted a better start to its final game of the campaign. Sophomore forward Kylan Gerads led a massive 16-4 run to begin the star-powered showing, scoring eight points. Alyssa Sand converted two free throws, Madi Herkenhoff took a charge and fired up the bench and Bailey Keske drew a foul on a drive to the net and made two free throws.
“I’m really proud of our girls,” Boyum said. “It’s not easy losing at Williams Arena yesterday. They had a whole gameplan with something to play for.”
Minnehaha Academy looked uncomfortable early on, making just one basket in the first nine minutes of the first half. However, the Section 4AA champion Redhawks rallied back in the closing stages of the half, executing a 19-4 run behind full-court pressure and a buzzer-beater 3-pointer to end the half.
Despite being down 23-20 at the halftime break, the Huskies were in a far better spot in this matchup than it was the first time it faced Minnehaha Academy, a 74-32 Redhawks victory Dec. 4. Showing no panic under the pressure, the Huskies came out of the intermission revitalized, scoring the first eight points of the second half to reclaim its lead.
“You look at our early-season games with some of the opponents we’ve now played again later in the season, today no different,” Boyum said. “We played Minnehaha the second game of the year and lost 74-32. To have a lead a big chunk of the game and for our girls to play really well, I’m really proud of our seniors.”
The Huskies’ valiant group of upperclassmen showed grit and fierceness in keeping the Huskies within striking distance. Herkenhoff got to the basket for nine points before fouling out, Keske helped keep the Huskies offense humming, Joran Carlson knocked down a 3-pointer in Albany’s mightily competitive first half, Danica Findley and Marissa Voigt played big minutes off the bench and Alexis Zierden provided vocal support from the sideline.
“We have a great, great Albany girls' basketball tradition that has gone back through history,” Boyum said. “This group of seniors, from their ninth-grade year to their 12th-grade year, there’s going to be three trophies in those four years that are going to be top-four place in the tournament. Even here, there are not a ton of classes that can say that.”
With the loss, the Huskies earned a fourth-place trophy following the game. The dynamic roster ends its impressive season with a 24-7 record following its second consecutive Section 6AA championship.
“We want to thank everybody for their support,” Boyum said. “As a coaching staff, we’ve been able to work with some incredible kids, and that’s a testament to their parents and families.”