Girls basketball knocked out on a buzzer-beater

The Forest Lake girls basketball team’s hopes of a trip to the state tournament were dashed at the latest possible moment of a Section 7AAAA semifinal game against Anoka on March 4.

The Tornadoes’ Brittany Bongartz was the culprit: Her last-second bucket lifted her team to a 55-53 victory.

The season-ending loss followed a strong Ranger performance against Cambridge-Isanti in the quarterfinals on March 2. After entering halftime tied at 26, the Ranger defense bore down on the Bluejackets, allowing them to score only two points in the first 12 minutes of the half. Junior Grace Van Bergen hit two straight threes to start the Rangers’ second-half run, and the strong defensive stand helped the Rangers pull away for a 57-40 win in what was to be their final home game.

“The first game is the toughest,” head coach Jen Wagner said. “We played with some nervous energy in the first half. Our defense is tough when we decide that we’re going to play.”

Sophomore Abigail Groeneweg was the top scorer in that game with 16 points. Sophomore Lexie Hultman scored 10. Seniors Tia Moscatelli and Abi Asperheim and sophomore Maddy Rice added six each; sophomore Kenzie Stumne netted five.

Sophomores and seniors were the order of the season for the Rangers.

“We’ve had great leadership from our seniors,” Wagner said. “As a sophomore, you’re ready when you’re ready. There are growing pains at times, but they’ve been fantastic to watch.”

Moscatelli and Asperheim led a group of six seniors on this year’s roster that also included Miranda Overland, Mizuki Matsumoto, Allison Bartlett and Heather Sauve.

Counting sectional games, the Rangers finished the season 15-13, a major improvement over a seven-win season in 2015-16.