March 15, 2023 at 10:34 p.m.

Season of success ends in somberness

Season of success ends in somberness
Season of success ends in somberness

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

Sauk Centre girls hoops fall behind late Albany rally

With a little over nine minutes left in the Section 6AA Girls Basketball Tournament championship game, the two-time defending Albany Huskies called a timeout.

On the other side, the Sauk Centre Streeters were in the midst of a defining moment of their season. Their defense was mustering an unparalleled effort to hold the Huskies to 34 points over the first 27 minutes of the contest, and their playmakers were hitting their shots, giving the second-seeded Streeters a 41-34 lead and a chance to knock off the current top dog.

Unfortunately, the Huskies returned from the break with more bite, executing a 15-0 run to end the game and advancing to the 2023 Minnesota State High School League Class AA Girls Basketball State Tournament with a 49-41 victory March 10 at St. Cloud State University in St. Cloud.

“This one is going to take a bit to get over,” said Scott Bergman, head coach. “We invested so much into this season and our girls really bought in. That makes it more fun, and also makes it harder when it ends.”

Sauk Centre, with a battered lineup, embraced its underdog status and controlled the lead for much of the game. Initially, the Streeters jumped out to a 13-7 advantage, with senior Torry Kerfeld hitting a flashy reverse layup, Cierra Kortan knocking down big shots and the Sauk Centre defense swarming the basketball.

“We were able to get the ball inside and finish,” Bergman said. “We were getting points inside and out, and whenever you can spread it around, it makes it more difficult to defend.”

The Huskies pulled to within one with a 5-0 surge, but two quick baskets gave Sauk Centre reestablished control. While Albany always lurked within multiple possessions, the Streeters were determined to stay ahead, applying lockdown defense against Huskie forwards Alyssa Sand and Kylan Gerads and taking away Albany’s vaunted offense down low.

“Our gameplan was, they do most of their damage inside versus out, so we wanted to limit their drives to the basket and limit their transition points and points off offensive rebounds,” Bergman said. “I think in all of those areas, we were effective.”

Ultimately, Sauk Centre entered the halftime break up by four points, an encouraging position against the state’s second-ranked squad. And when sophomores Tory Jennissen and Kortan made back-to-back shots midway through the second half to lead by seven, the Streeters were riding high and had the Huskies on the back foot.

“The one thing we asked our girls to do is leave everything out on the court, and that’s exactly what they did,” Bergman said.

These shots for Sauk Centre, sadly, stopped falling after that. Despite many open looks and accurate shots, several looks rolled out at the rim as the lack of shooting success became contagious. With their outside game going cold, the Huskies prevented Jennissen and fellow forward Jenna Gapinski-Vogt from winning the game in the paint, and this slowed the Streeters down enough for Albany to come back.

“We’ve had difficulty scoring the ball this season, so we worked on things we thought would be effective to put points on the board,” Bergman said. “It worked for the first three-fourths of the game. That last fourth, the ball stopped going in. They just got the momentum and continued on.”

The season-ending performance saw Kortan score 13 points, including three 3-pointers, while Jennissen posted 11 points and five boards.

“Both Cierra and Tory had nice offensive games and offensive seasons and Maddy Schuster had a tremendous defensive season, so it’s nice to get those three back for the next couple of years,” Bergman said.

While that trio focuses on the road ahead, an eventful, emotional journey for Sauk Centre’s seniors came to an end. Gapinski-Vogt, Kerfeld and Heidi Lieser represented the Streeters when it came time to grab the team’s second-place trophy, and it was a difficult, tearful goodbye for upperclassmen who exemplified everything good about Sauk Centre girls basketball.

“You can always tell how much it means to those girls on how they react when the realization that their season and career is over,” Bergman said. “You could tell how much it hurt and meant to them. How they conducted themselves on a daily basis I think was huge. We were very blessed to have three seniors that were tremendous leaders.”

The Streeters end another winter season with a lot to be excited about, wrapping up the campaign with a 21-9 overall record, including a 10-2 mark in Section 6AA and an 8-4 resume in West Central Conference play.

“The final thing I told them was how proud the coaching staff was of them, how they played, not only that day, but all year,” Bergman said. “I’m really proud of how they represented themselves, our school and our community. That’s always something important to us.”

SC 23 18 41

ALB 19 30 49

Kortan 13 points (3A), Jennissen 11 (5R), Kerfeld 7 (4A), Gapinski-Vogt 5 (7R, 3A), Schuster 3 and Lieser 2 (6R).


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