Centennial had an encouraging first three minutes against Eden Prairie in the state tournament Wednesday. Marisa Frost made a mid-court steal against one of the best point guards in the state and dashed for a three-point play for a quick 3-0 lead. The Cougars added some nice slashing drives and opened an 11-6 margin.
Then the roof fell in as the deep, swift, talented, No. 5 ranked Eagles started to take the heavy underdog Cougars apart on the way to a 41-22 halftime lead. The final count was 78-57 at Williams Arena.
The Cougars (19-11) dropped into the consolation bracket against Eagan at Concordia-St. Paul on Thursday at 10 a.m. with the winner playing in the fifth-place game Friday.
“Eden Prairie was a lot quicker than they appeared on film. They took us out of a lot of things we want to do on offense,” Cougar coach Jamie Sobolik said. “We only attempted one 3-pointer in the whole first half.”
One big reason for the dominance by the Eagles (21-9) was playing in the state’s super conference, the Lake, which had five of the top six ranked teams in Class 4A and now three of the four state semi-finalists.
“That schedule they play, in the Lake, they are extremely battle-tested,” said Sobolik.
The semifinals Thursday will be Hopkins vs.Stillwater (of the Suburban East) and Eden Prairie vs. St. Michael-Albertville.
Eden Prairie had remarkable depth and balance. Ella Hardwick and Annika Anderson scored 12 points each, Rae Ehrman and point guard Molly Lenz 10 each, and Tori Schlagel nine. Ten players scored, and nobody played more than 23 minutes, so they were always fresh.
“Our defense was excellent. We rebounded really well. And we had our best shooting game of the year — fifty percent on three's,” coach Ellie Wiese summarized. “So we had a little too much for Centennial today.”
Frost had a big game with 21 points on 7-for-10 shooting, with four steals. The junior guard is playing in her fifth state tournament (three basketball, two soccer). Sobolik praised her also for solid defense against Lenz. After Frost, Emma Walsh scored nine points, Macey Littlefield eight and Autumn McCall seven.
The Cougars shot the ball extremely well, sinking 20 of 37 field goal attempts and 16 of 24 free shots.
However, Eden Prairie was usually controlling the ball and shot the lights out themselves, 30-for-55 overall, including 9-for-18 on three’s. The Eagles have some serious speed and can get down the floor for fast breaks in the blink of an eye.
With the game out of reach early, the Cougars were able to get 18 players into the state tournament game. Especially sweet was Megan Stacy scoring an uncontested basket on an inbounds play.
Sobolik explained after the game that Stacy is a five-year varsity player but with a career interrupted by one injury after another. She was relegated to manager status this year but Sobolik activated her late in the season. “We wanted to get Megan in so she could get a basket in the state tournament,” said Sobolik. He had arranged with Wiese before the game to help make that happen. The Eagle coach had her players stand back and let Stacy score, after which Stacy left the court to a high-five from Sobolik and applause from her teammates.
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