Basketball girls fall just shy of state bid, close 21-win season
Section runner-up is a far cry from an unsuccessful season, but the Forest Lake girls’ basketball team hoped to take it to the state tournament this winter. An overtime loss on Friday night ended their season just short of a bid.
They had the talent, the depth and the top seed in the Section 7AAAA tournament. What the Rangers didn’t expect was a determined and transformed Anoka squad to come back from a 15-point deficit with 11 minutes to play.
“It was sad,” head coach Jen Wagner said. “The kids and coaches put in a lot of time and effort, and we felt we had such good chemistry that it would be our year for a trip to the state tournament. It’s hard to think of anything but that loss. They’re sad and they should be.”
The Rangers had the lead at half at 26-20 and held the Tornadoes scoreless for the first seven minutes of the second half.
After building a comfortable 15-point cushion, 40-25, the Rangers hit a slump.
Anoka’s star junior, Claire Lundberg, broke her squad’s scoreless streak and started a run with a three from the top of the key.
Following an Anoka free throw, Lundberg came off a screen to hit another three-pointer from up top to make it an eight-point ball game, 40-32.
Anoka spark plug Abby Torgerson closed the gap to six with a left-side drive and lay-in.
Forest Lake hit two foul shots, only to be answered by Torgerson on the other end to keep it a two-possession game.
Ranger sophomore Hanna Vidlund hit a three from the right wing, and it looked like Forest Lake was going to pull away again with a 45-36 lead.
But Torgerson and Lundberg didn’t give up. Anoka hit two 3-pointers then a turnaround jumper to close the gap to one, 45-44.
The Tornadoes took off on a scoring spree a few minutes later. A three, another Lundberg jumper and two foul shots put them up by six, 51-45, with 1:33 left in the game.
Just when it looked like the Rangers would fall, junior Anna Eckert was fouled and went 1-2 from the foul line, followed by a scoreless Anoka possession.
Forest Lake junior Bailey Norby drove, made the shot and free throw to complete a three-point play from the rightside blocks to bring her team within two points with 43 seconds on the clock.
Eckert fouled and sent the Torgerson to the line. She made one of the two free throws.
With less than 30 seconds to go, the Rangers passed around the perimeter until Eckert found Norby camping out in the right corner. Norby sunk a three to tie the game at 52 with 18 seconds to play.
Anoka brought the ball up and Vidlund and sophomore Sarah Jaeb trapped Torgerson in the left corner, drawing a jump ball call.
The Rangers got took possession with 5.4 seconds to go, but senior Angie Frericks’ attempt bounced off the back of the rim.
Lundberg took charge for the Tornadoes in overtime, scoring the first four points to give Anoka a 56-52 lead.
Eckert scored two foul shots after drawing an over-the-back foul on guard, Kyra Fredenburg, her fifth.
Torgerson took her turn on offense again by drawing fouls on Jaeb and Norby, fouling both out and going 3-4 on the foul line to put the lead at five.
Eckert made it a one-possession game with a pair of free throws, but Torgerson answered with her own foul shots on the opposite end.
Vidlund hit a field goal with 25 seconds to go to come within three points again at 61-58, but Lundberg doused the Rangers hope from the free throw line again once Forest Lake was forced to resort to fouling.
Wagner said she should have tried something different on defense.
“I should have adjusted our defense better, either a zone or sagging defense, something to swing the momentum back or at least change the pace,” Wagner said. “I was so concerned with giving up threes that it opened up that weakside curl around. I’m proud of our girls, they executed well.”
Eckert led Forest Lake with 19 points, followed by Norby and Vidlund with 13 points apiece. Frericks contributed seven, while senior KP Palo recorded six points.
The Rangers made it to the section final following a 62-44 victory over Andover in the semifinals last Wednesday. Norby led the offensive effort with 28 points. Eckert earned 18, while Vidlund and Frericks both scored seven points.
Forest Lake closed its season with a record of 21-7— marking the first season with 20 or more wins in over a decade.
Wagner said that her squad had a successful season despite the section final loss, and they will focus on continuing to build a lasting program. The junior varsity also had 20-plus wins this year.
“It’s hard not to think about this one game,” Wagner said. “But the girls need to understand how much success they’ve had this year, and how they have been able to make Forest Lake girls’ basketball a positive program. It’s a long season, mid-November to mid-March, and what they’ve achieved is a huge accomplishment.”