Sioux Falls Lincoln and Brandon Valley will face off in the state Class AA championship game after posting semifinal wins that were very different from one another.
Lincoln avenged its two-point overtime loss to Harrisburg in the 2018 state semifinals, as the Patriots posted a nail-biting 42-39 win over the Tigers. Brandon Valley, on the other hand, weathered a quick start by Mitchell before going on to dominate the Kernels, 52-38, in the first semifinal game.
The Patriots and Lynx face off in Barnett Arena at 5 p.m. Saturday with the state title on the line.
S.F. Lincoln 42, Harrisburg 39
Lincoln’s starting five battled for every point it could get during a hard-fought fourth quarter, as the Patriots fought off Harrisburg’s second-half comeback to advance to the AA title game.
Lincoln’s starters scored 40 of its 42 points. Morgan Hansen led the way with 13 points and grabbed nine rebounds. Emma Osmundson and Brooke Brown scored 11 each. Brown handed out a team-high four assists.
“We can get the ball to whoever, and we trust that they'll make the right decision,” Hansen said of her teammates. “So our focus was just to stay patient, patient on offense and just see where it goes from there.”
The Patriots looked like they were going to ease into the title game, as Lincoln’s defense held Harrisburg in check over the first 16 minutes of play. The Tigers hit only 5 of 22 shots — a 22.7 percent clip — and trailed 24-13 at the half.
“At halftime we told them, ‘This is a great team. We're playing a great team and they're going to make a run,’” Lincoln coach Matt Daly said. “It’s just a matter of when it's going to be.”
As if on queue, Harrisburg showed early in the second half it wasn’t going down without a fight.
The Tigers held Lincoln scoreless for the first six minutes of the third quarter and finally strung some baskets together while going on a 10-0 run to open the second half. A three-point play by Aby Phipps and 3-point field goals by Jeniah Ugofsky and Brecli Honner woke up a quiet Harrisburg crowd, as the Tigers pulled within 24-23 at the 2:41 mark of the third quarter.
“We shot so poorly in the first half. I think just almost getting that first free throw, that first basket in the second half, they're just all of a sudden re-energized,” Harrisburg coach Nick Mayer said. “We saw a couple shots go in and then crowd gets into it and we got the momentum back on our side.”
Phipps went hard to the hoop and drew a foul on Hansen as she sank a short jumper. Phipps’ free throw put Harrisburg up 32-31 just 15 seconds into the fourth quarter.
Lincoln’s Mya Wilson answered with a 3-pointer to put Lincoln up 34-32 with six minutes to play. Phipps responded with a post-up bucket to tie the game before Brooke Brown sank another 3 for the Patriots to push Lincoln ahead 37-34 with 3:24 to play.
Hansen hit two free throws to put Lincoln up 40-37 with 11.3 to play.
Coming out of a timeout, the Patriots dug in along the 3-point arc, not wanting to give Harrisburg a look at a game-tying three.
“We said no 3s,” Daly said. “We got our heels on the 3-point line.”
Honner chose to drive to the elbow of the lane and pull up for a jumper that pulled the Tigers within 40-39 with five seconds to play.
“The goal is to shoot that 3 or at least have it,” Mayer said. “but that's a tough situation, and it's just how it goes sometimes”
Brandon Valley 52, Mitchell 38
Mitchell came into the game riding an emotional high after knocking off No. 1 Sioux Falls O’Gorman 63-54 on Thursday. The Kernels looked like they were going to use the energy they had from their first-round win to a second upset in as many days at the AA tournament.
Brandon Valley would have nothing of it. The Lynx used their depth to wear down a Kernel team that relies on its starters to carry much of the work load.
“We were a little juiced right away,” Brandon Valley coach Mark Stadem said. “And we thought we'd just come out, just take some quick shots and we can't do that. We had to settle into a rhythm.”
Down 9-0 six minutes into the game, Danica Kocer steadied the Lynx with pair of 3-pointers and a basket in transition to breathe life in the the Brandon Valley offense. The Lynx hit their stride late in the second stanza when Ashley Wells hit a 3-pointer, resulting in a 23-19 lead.
Brandon Valley scored the first nine points of the second half to take a 35-23 lead over the Kernels, whose legs seemed to weary as the quarter wore on. Mitchell never cut the deficit under 10 points the rest of the way.
Depth was vital to Brandon Valley knocking off the upset-minded Kernels. Trinity Law and Hannah Behrens struggled with foul troubles for much of the game.
Law, who averages 10.9 points and 9.2 rebounds per game, played less than four minutes in the first half and didn’t score until midway through the fourth quarter.
Kocer and Wells carried the offensive load in Law’s place. Kocer, who averages 11.1 points a game, responded with a game-high 17 points. Wells, who entered state play averaging 8.5 points per game, followed with 14 points.
“We had to make our way through it a little bit without Tiff on the floor,” Stadem said, “but we've got enough guards, and they can step up.”
Tess Limberg scored 12 of her team-high 16 points in the first half. Key to the Kernels early success on offense, Limberg was held without a made field goal over the final two quarters.
Mitchell will play Harrisburg in the third-place game, which tips off at 10 a.m. Saturday in the Rapid City Ice Arena.