March 14, 2023 at 10:47 p.m.

Tremendous trifecta

Tremendous trifecta
Tremendous trifecta

By Evan Michealson- | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

Albany girls hoops advances to state tournament

With nine minutes remaining in the Section 6AA girls basketball championship game remaining, the Albany Huskies were fighting for their tournament lives. 

The Sauk Centre Streeters, Albany’s greatest postseason rival, was finding the better of the Huskies throughout most of the contest, making key defensive stops and knocking down big-time shots on the other end. Suddenly, hopes of attending the Minnesota State High School League Class AA Girls State Basketball Tournament appeared fleeting. 

But as it has done throughout its decorated girls hoops history, the Huskies stepped up when it mattered, ending the game on a 15-0 run to capture its third consecutive section title March 10 at St. John’s University in Collegeville.

“We had to pick it up and know the second half had to be our way, because we didn’t want to lose that game,” said Kylan Gerads, junior forward. “It’s a great feeling to win.”

In front of a packed, energetic crowd, the longtime juggernauts each showed how it had reached this stage in the first place. The Streeters flexed its outstanding defense, taking away Gerads and fellow All-State forward Alyssa Sand and creating tough shots for Albany in building a 13-7 lead.

The Huskies needed to find production from as many of its playmakers as possible, and that’s when point guard Callie Holthaus slotted in perfectly. Coming off the bench, she gave Albany a necessary shot in the arm, fighting her way to the basket for an and-one, three-point play. Along with Savanna Pelzer’s ball handling, scoring and distribution, the Huskies were often fueled by the efforts of its point guards.

“They’re gritty kids,” said Aaron Boyum, head coach. “They get after it, they stay down in their stance and they just pressure the ball and they’re very, very pesky. People would be surprised to know they have the two best verticals on the team.”

Sauk Centre 1,000-point sophomore Cierra Kortan and Huskies breakout guard Tatum Findley each drained a 3-pointer as the teams battled to a frenetic first-half finish, with the Streeters leading 23-19.

The second-seeded Streeters built to a 28-21 advantage early in the second half, but the Huskies never fell out of the game. Gerads took matters into her own hands, registering a steal, which was followed immediately by a bucket while being fouled. Albany once again cut it back to a one-point deficit.

“We always say at halftime, ‘It’s 0-0,’ so we came out with a lot of energy,” Sand said. “I think losing at halftime helped us want it more and come out firing.”

Even with these surges, Albany could not initially scrape the lead away from Sauk Centre, who received 3-pointers from Tory Jennissen and Kortan to lead 41-34, leading to an Albany timeout with 9 minutes, 15 seconds remaining in the thriller. For the Huskies, who had grown so much as a team to record a 25-1 regular season and earn the section’s top seed, it was about staying around and understanding what to do in clutch situations.

“They just continued to believe,” Boyum said. “We have girls with a lot of experience that have won a lot of basketball games. They believe in that process, and they believe in themselves.”

Instead of trying to keep up with Sauk Centre’s quick passing and decisive plays inside, Albany slowed the game down and paid attention to the half-court details. Defensively, the Huskies turned to a box-and-one against Kortan, forcing Sauk Centre’s depth to make low-percentage 3-pointers to continue scoring. This proved to be a major game-changing adjustment, as the Streeters missed several important perimeter attempts down the stretch in failing to score for over nine minutes. 

“That really helped a lot,” Sand said. “They were getting us in the post but also in the perimeter, so I think the box-and-one was a good play.”

Albany also piled on productive plays. After Albany finally took a 42-41 lead, Pelzer sent the Albany crowd into a mad frenzy with a gutsy layup, taking on a large amount of contact for yet another three-point play. And when Sauk Centre fouled the Huskies to try and stay in the game, Albany slammed the door shut with clutch free throws, sending themselves back to state yet again.

“We trailed for most of the game, but for us to stay the course, I’m incredibly proud of their effort and how they stayed together,” Boyum said.

The Huskies enter state as Class AA’s third seed and will battle the Perham Yellowjackets at 8 p.m., Wednesday, March 15, at Maturi Pavilion in Minneapolis. 

SC 19   22-41

ALB 23   26-49

Albany: Gerads 14 points, Findley 10, Holthaus 9, Sand 8, Savanna Pelzer 5, Eva Schwenzfeier 2 and Natalie Blonigan 1. 

Albany 73, Pine City 47

The Huskies reached the section finals with a 73-47 win over the number four seed Pine City March 7 at Sexton Arena at St. John’s University in Collegeville.

Pine City nailed a three to open up the game, but the Huskies quickly countered with four baskets to go up 8-3.

The Huskies stretched its lead to 10, but the Dragons closed the gap to within four (20-16).

Albany went on a 11-0 run and were up by 15, at 31-16, with six minutes left in the first half.

The Huskies closed out the first half with a 13-point margin, at 41-28.

Albany increased its lead throughout the second half and led by as much as 29 with two and a half minutes to go.

Boyum noted Pine City is really strong up the middle, “from the top of the key to the high post and down.” So, Albany looked at what defense to counter that.

“They are very long, very athletic, so they are very good at getting second-chance points,” Boyum said. “I think we did a pretty good job of taking that away tonight.”

Sand, with 21 points, Gerads with 20 and Findley with 15 led the Huskies in scoring. Sand was also the rebounding leader with 11 boards, completing a triple-double with an improbable 10 steals. 

ALB 41   32-73

PC 28   19-47

Albany: Sand 21 (11R, 10S, 4A), Gerads 20 (4R, 4A, 4S), Findley 15, Pelzer 7 (6A), VanHeel 5, Sophia Schiffler 3 and Holthaus 2.


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