The first round of the Section 7AA girls' basketball tournament gets under way today and Thursday with a couple of David vs. Goliath games pitting area teams.
The top-seeded Pequot Lakes Patriots face the No. 8 Aitkin Gobblers 6 p.m. today at Grand Rapids. The Patriots come into the contest with a 17-4 record and three girls averaging in double figures. Julie Redebaugh is averaging 15.2 points a game, Megan Arns 12.7 and Joan Ebnet 10.8.
For Aitkin, senior Jennifer Straughn is scoring 18.7 points a game. But the question is, does Aitkin have enough stones to throw at the favored Patriots? The Gobblers finished the regular season with a 4-18 record but have been getting good play out of senior Abbey Olson (8.2 points a game) and Sarah Just (5.6 points).
Junior Carrie Cummings has been the catalyst for the Gobblers and she'll be asked to defend against the talented front court of Arns and Ebnet.
"We just have to put all four quarters together and shoot the ball well," said Aitkin coach Daryl Smith. "We need to play hard-nosed defense and block out on the boards. Win or lose we'll be able to compete if we do those things."
With Straughn at point guard the Gobblers have the ball in the hands of one of their best players. The problem comes in getting a shot off as Pequot's man-to-man defense has been one of the best the last three years.
Pequot has held its opponents to just 41 points per game while the Patriots have managed to score 63 per contest.
Aside from a loss to Hancock Feb. 19, the Patriots have won five of their last six games. Aitkin is coming off a one-point loss to Deer River. The Gobblers did beat Rush City Feb. 20.
The one thing that concerns Smith is Pequot's experience in the playoffs, with two starters from last year's state team and Arns, a transfer from Brainerd.
"They know what it takes to win in the playoffs," said Smith. "They're a veteran ballclub. We have a new team."
When the teams faced each other in the regular season Pequot beat the Gobblers 77-37 Dec. 19. In that game Straughn scored a game-high 23 points.
For Pequot, Arns drained 15 points, Ebnet 18, eighth-grader Flecia Foster added 15 and Redebaugh scored 12.
"They all did their damage on us," said Smith. "We have to limit them to just one shot. That's what killed us last time. We just gave up too many second shots. Then, once we got behind, we lost our confidence and you can't do that against a team like that."
At 8 p.m. Thursday in Grand Rapids the second-seeded Pine River-Backus Tigers square off against the No. 7 Crosby-Ironton Rangers.
These two teams faced each other Feb. 22, with the Tigers taking a 68-52 win. In that game C-I's Kate Galovich scored 31 points while the Tigers' Sarah Laposky scored 25.
What hurt the Rangers was the fact that Brittany Nelson and Meg Tabaka also scored in double digits with 10 points each.
The Rangers were within four points at halftime but then PR-B went to a full-court press and scored 30 points in the third quarter to build a 24-point lead.
The Rangers have lost eight of their last nine games and are allowing opponents to average 53 points. C-I is averaging 41 points a contest, which is exactly what PR-B is giving up per game.
The Tigers, who have won six straight and 14 of their last 15 games, are averaging 61 points a game.
Thanks to the scoring of Laposky, who's averaging 25 points a game, PR-B won the Park Region Conference and was disappointed with getting the second seed after it beat Pequot Lakes 52-44 Jan. 30.
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