Vikings use early adjustments to dispatch upset-minded Red Lake 66-46 in quarterfinals

Photo by Sam Thiel Minneota's Lydia Sussner puts up a shot over a pair of Red Lake defenders during their Class A quarterfinal game Thursday at Maturi Pavilion at the University of Minnesota.

MINNEAPOLIS — The No. 1 seeded Minneota girls basketball team looked to make an early statement to open their Class A tournament play against Red Lake. When the unseeded Warriors took a double-digit lead in the opening minutes, however, the Vikings were forced to make quick adjustments.

Thanks to a strong offensive performance and key plays down the stretch, Minneota was able to shake off Red Lake with a 66-46 quarterfinal victory Thursday at Maturi Pavilion at the University of Minnesota and advance to the next round.

Vikings coach Chad Johnston credited Red Lake for being able to disrupt their flow on offense early but felt his team did a good job of making the necessary adjustments throughout the game.

“We knew Red Lake was going to be playing very disruptive defense; you watch them fly around and they do it extremely well. Their pressure is on you at all times, so credit goes to them in what they do and how they disrupt your offense,” Johnston said. “I thought our girls did a wonderful job for basically three-quarters of that game, we ran an offense we have not run all year. It was kind of a freelance but it was more about getting people in gaps and we knew that if we tried to run something a little structured, that that defense would prevent us from doing it. For the first five or six minutes of that game that’s what their defense did, so credit to the girls for making the adjustments and doing the things they needed to do and making those runs when they needed to and keep the win going.”

First-half fuel

The Vikings had their backs against the wall early, as Red Lake opened the game on a 6-0 run before taking its first double-digit lead of the day at 14-4 with 12 minutes left in the first half. The Warriors were able to hold Minneota in check with their defensive pressure, as multiple turnovers by the Vikings led to the quick offense for Red Lake.

Despite the early deficit, the Vikings continued to piece together some quality looks on offense, as a pair of layups from Lydia Sussner cut Red Lake’s lead to just two at 14-12. That would spark a key run for the Vikings, as Abby Hennen connected on a 3-pointer to give Minneota its first lead of the game at 15-14 before the guard drilled another triple to make it 18-14 with 6:53 left in the first half. Lizzy Gillingham then added a basket of her own to cap a 16-0 spurt for Minneota in a span of six minutes.

Johnston said they were able to take advantage of a few things such as wearing down Red Lake and drawing fouls but felt the biggest key during their run was their ability to rebound and limit Warrior possessions.

“I think a little bit there I think they got a little tired in that first half. (No. 35) got in foul trouble, I think that was definitely an advantage to us, but part of it is just taking care of the ball,” Johnston said. “If you’re not giving them looks in transition, we even noticed in tape, if they had to do things in the half-court they would be very patient and take some time off. They got some shots off but we did a wonderful job of rebounding and making sure that it was one-and-done.”

The Warriors were able to momentarily stop the bleeding with a couple of baskets, but the Vikings once again had an answer getting a layup from Gillingham before a third 3-pointer from Abby Hennen pushed the Vikings’ advantage to 35-21 going into the locker rooms.

Holding on

down the stretch

Looking to continue their run to begin the second half, the Vikings were able to extend their advantage to as many as 18 at 46-28 in the opening minutes. Red Lake wouldn’t go away, though, using a quick 8-0 run to make it a 10-point game with 10:19 left before a 3-pointer by the Warriors cut the deficit into single digits.

The two teams then traded points over the next several minutes, with Minneota maintaining at least a 10-point lead before a layup from Abby Hennen pushed the Vikings advantage back to 18 at 60-42 with 2:29 to go. Red Lake would get to within 14, but couldn’t draw any closer as Minneota moved on to the semifinals with the 66-46 victory.

Gillingham led the way for the Vikings with 19 points while Sussner added 18 and Abby Hennen had 16. Sussner also led in rebounds with 17 while Abby Hennen added 13 boards. Sussner and Morgan Hennen led in assists with three each.

Minneota (28-1) will face No. 4 seed Heritage Christian Academy today at noon at Williams Arena.

No. 1 Minneota 66, Red Lake 46

Red Lake 21 25 – 46

Minneota 35 31 – 66

SCORING: Minneota (Gillingham 7-19, 4-4 19; Sussner 6-12, 6-12 18; A. Hennen 4-8, 5-9 16; Kockelman 2-7, 1-3, 5; M. Hennen 2-11, 0-1 4; Rolbiecki 0-2, 2-4 2; Rost 1-3, 0-0 2).

REBOUNDS: Minneota 67 (Sussner 17; A. Hennen 13; M. Hennen, Gillingham 9; Rolbiecki 7).

ASSISTS: Minneota 12 (M. Hennen, Sussner 3; Kockelman, Gillingham 2; A. Hennen, Rost 1).

STEALS: Minneota 4 (A. Hennen, Sussner 2).

BLOCKS: Minneota 3 (Sussner).