Fast start lifts Grafton to repeat Class B Region 2 title and a return trip to the state tournament
Spoilers upend Thompson 63-50 in the championship game
Grafton won its first two Class B Region 2 tournament games by an average of 51.5 points.
In Thursday night’s regional title game at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center, the possibility of another lopsided win wasn’t great because the two heavyweight of Region 2 were in the title game.
Grafton, however, had enough of everything in downing Thompson 63-50 to advance to next week’s North Dakota state Class B tournament in Minot.
Grafton reached last season’s state title game but came up short in the championship game against Langdon-Edmore-Munich, which also won a repeat Region 4 title Thursday night. The Spoilers’ mission this season was to return to state and make another run at a title.
“This win is special because it was a tough heartbreak those final minutes of that championship game last March,” said Grafton coach Laurie Sieben. “That was tough on these girls. I’m just so happy for them. They enjoy putting the time in and they go above and beyond what’s asked of them from us as a program. They kept believing all season.”
Grafton improved to 22-2 and will enter the state six points away from an undefeated regular season. The Spoilers' two losses came against No. 1-ranked Central Cass (three points) and No. 2 Kindred (two points).
Grafton got the jump early against Thompson, capitalizing on its full-court press and balanced scoring for a 21-9 advantage after the first quarter. The Spoilers went up 35-17 late in the first half when Carlee Sieben drove the lane for a basket.
“Our seniors led the team and encouraged us to keep pushing,” said sophomore center Walker Demers, who ended with 16 points. “We played our game but with a lot of intensity, more so than normal. We knew what was on the line and we didn’t want to lose.”
Thompson, a region power for much of the past decade, didn’t go away, however, after trailing 38-22 at halftime.
Mackenzie Hughes kept the Tommies within striking distance with her perimeter shooting, The Thompson guard finished with 27 points. She hit a deep 3-pointer to pull the Tommies to within 52-43 in the fourth quarter but Grafton managed to hang on.
Demers, Julia Dusek and Carlee Sieben all finished with 16 points for the balanced Spoilers.
Grafton’s 1-2-2 press was effective early.
“We just knew we wanted to make them work for four quarters,” said the Grafton coach. “Hats off to Thompson;s fight. And I’m super proud of the fight our girls gave for four quarters.”
This was the second meeting of the season between the teams. Grafton won the first game 75-54. The teams came in ranked as well, Grafton No. 3 and Thompson No. 5.
“Our kids earned their opportunity tonight; they battled and fought hard for four quarters,” said Sieben. “We’re just so excited for them.”
Grafton 63, Thompson 50
Halftime: Grafton 38, Thompson 22
Thompson -- Olvia Dick 9, Mackenzie Hughes 27, Sydney Schwabe 5, Mya Krogstad 2, Madeleine Stefonowicz 7
Grafton -- Julia Dusek 16, Carlee Sieben 16, Reagan Hanson 5, Cassie Sieben 6, Cassie Erickson 4, Walker Demers 16