The game that never was will finally be.
Twice, the Staples-Motley Cardinals and Sauk Centre Mainstreeters were scheduled to meet during the regular season. Twice that game was called because of weather.
The inevitable matchup between two of Section 6-2A’s top teams over the last four seasons will finally happen 6 p.m. Tuesday when the top-seeded and sixth-ranked Cardinals (21-5) face the No. 2-seeded and fifth-ranked Mainstreeters (25-2) in the North Subsection 6-2A championship game at St. John’s University in Collegeville.
“They still play aggressive defense and are still well-coached,” S-M head coach Arden Beachy said about Sauk Centre. “The difference is they had a once-in-a-lifetime player in Kali Peschel. She made a lot of things go because she was so tough to guard being a 6-foot-1 point guard. She made it easy for the rest of her team to score.
“Since she’s graduated, it’s been a little tougher for them to get that consistent scoring. Now they’re more of an inside team from what I can tell. They’ll still shoot from outside, but not compared to their teams in the past.”
The Cardinals have won three straight and 11 of their last 12. Their one loss in that span was to Class 3A’s top-ranked and unbeaten Fergus Falls Otters. Their other losses were to 3A’s third-ranked Richfield, 1A’s top-ranked and defending state champion Maranatha Christian and 4A’s Woodbury and Rogers.
A balanced offensive attack and strong defense have allowed S-M to outscore its opponents 66.1 to 47.7.
“We wanted to simulate everything we could possibly face with our schedule,” said Beachy. “Sauk Centre plays aggressive defense. Richfield was up in our face. Woodbury, Orono and a couple of other teams we faced played that way as well.
“We played against bigger teams that went inside, like Detroit Lakes and Fergus and Rogers and even Maranatha. Those games have prepared us to play a lot of different ways.”
Sauk Centre’s two losses came against Osakis, which it avenged Saturday 46-39 to set up Tuesday’s matchup, and BOLD, which is playing for the Section 3-2A title Friday.
The Mainstreeters are the three-time defending section champions. Each time they had to beat Staples-Motley to earn that honor. Last year, Sauk Centre won 58-48 in the subsection final. The two previous years they won 78-58 and 58-44 in section finals.
“Our girls are pretty confident,” said Beachy. “We know we’re going to make shots and play tough. We really have to find ways to make defensive stops. We have a lot of girls that can score. We play up to 10 people and nine of those girls have led us in scoring at least once this season. Out of our five starters, four have played against Sauk Centre four times. So nothing they see should be a surprise.”
■ Northeast Subsection 8-2A
The second-seeded Pequot Lakes Patriots (19-9) will look for their third straight subsection title when they battle top-seeded Crookston (20-5) in the Northeast Subsection 8-2A title game 7 p.m. Tuesday at Bemidji State University.
“We’re on a little bit of a stretch right now,” said Pequot head coach Jon Dale. “I won’t say we had a letdown against Crosby because they’re a decent team, but besides that game, the last part of the season we’re doing well. I think Katie White is getting back in shape after her foot injury and knock on wood the rest of us are healthy.”
The two-time defending Section 8-2A champions have won four straight and six of their last seven. This will be the second time these teams have met in the Section 8-2A playoffs since the Patriots moved into the section in the 2007-08 season. That year the then top-ranked Pirates beat Pequot in the section final 80-55 at Bemidji State.
“We’ll go as our defense goes,” said Dale. “Our offense will be solid, but we’ve kind of been Jekyll and Hyde with our defense. We played terrible defense against Roseau. We talked about it and the girls decided to play and work hard on defense against Crosby and I thought we played well. It’s going to depend on our defense.”
Last year in the subsection semifinals, Pequot beat Crookston 68-65. Pequot also beat the Pirates 73-69 during the 2009 Crookston Holiday tournament. The teams did not meet during this regular season.
Crookston is ranked No. 7 in the Quality Results Formula (QRF) and has won four straight.
“They’re bigger than we are,” said Dale. “They’ll be stronger inside and they have a lot of kids coming in and out of the game. I kind of like our chances against them if the kids come out ready to play.”
■ Southwest Subsection 8-2A
The No. 5-seeded Wadena-Deer Creek Wolverines remain on upset mode.
After eliminating No. 4 Frazee in the Southwest Subsection 8-2A quarterfinals, W-DC surprised top-seeded Hawley 41-36 Saturday to set up Tuesday’s Southwest Subsection 8-2A championship against No. 3 Pelican Rapids 7:45 p.m. Tuesday at Concordia College in Moorhead.
W-DC (18-9) has won seven straight. The Wolverines lost to Pelican Rapids 50-43 Dec. 18. It was the only meeting between the teams this season.
The Vikings (19-7) have won four straight. They survived No. 6-seeded Breckenridge 55-52 in overtime and upset No. 2-seeded Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton 52-50, which swept the regular-season series against Pelican Rapids.
■ East Subsection 5-1A
Can the Pine River-Backus Tigers make the next step?
The No. 2-seeded Tigers (23-4) will find out 7 p.m. Tuesday when they battle the top-seeded Isle Huskies (21-6) in the East Subsection 5-1A championship at McGregor High School.
Last season, Isle eliminated PR-B 54-48. PR-B knocked off the Huskies 58-44 Jan. 10, but Tuesday’s game matters most.
The Tigers have won four straight and 10 of their last 11. They are outscoring opponents 70.9 to 36.6.
“Anybody on this team can score,” said PR-B head coach Randy Schwegel. “We have four girls averaging in double figures and one girl with about seven or eight points. We do have a lot of different places we can go to get points.
“It’s tough to try and defend us. You can’t just say you’re going to stop this girl or that girl. That is a big plus for us this year as opposed to years past.”
Isle has won three straight and 14 of its last 15. The Huskies’ last two losses were to Class 2A’s Braham. Its other losses were to PR-B, Upsala, which is the top seed in the West Subsection, and 3A’s Rocori and 4A’s St. Cloud Tech.
Isle is averaging 66.0 points and is holding opponents to 37.7 per game.
“Isle is not very big, but they do get the ball up and down the floor,” said Schwegel. “They play good defense and play man most of the time, but they have been playing some zone lately.
“We need to get back defensively. They like to shoot 3-pointers. They didn’t shoot very well against us the first time, but I know they’re a lot better than what we saw then.”
Schwegel said a key will be containing senior point guard Amber Zimpel, who likes to get into the lane and distribute the ball. Senior guard Tember Cooper is a big threat from the perimeter.
“We have to play good defense and we are pretty good defensively and what we do well is we help well,” said Schwegel. “We like to trap the ball and people rotate up and do a good job of finding that open person. We’ve been working on this for a long time. We really do help each other out.”