Langdon-Edmore-Munich advances to state title game with win over Central Cass
The Central Cass girls basketball team had already knocked off an undefeated state power, snapping the 36-game winning streak of Kindred in the Region 1 championship game.
Could the Squirrels do it again against an undefeated state power in the North Dakota state Class B tournament semifinals?
Not this time. Not the way Langdon-Edmore-Munich is playing.
Cardinals senior Callie Ronningen navigated foul trouble and still managed to score 18 points to lead Langdon-E-M to a 62-42 win over Central Cass on Friday night at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center.
The Cardinals (26-0) advance to Saturday's 8 p.m. championship game against No. 2 Grafton. Langdon-E-M beat Grafton 51-44 during the regular season.
"I'm so happy, and I know my team is so excited," Ronningen said. "We only dreamed about this, and it's actually happening. It feels surreal."
The pivotal stretch came late in the second quarter and early in the third.
After Langdon-E-M jumped out to a 22-11 lead, Central Cass carved into the lead after Ronningen picked up her third foul in the second quarter and had to sit.
With Ronningen on the bench, Central Cass made a run. Decontee Smith banked in a 3-pointer from straight away, while Jaylin Cotton hit a pair of shots to trim the Cardinals' lead to 25-22 with 2:45 left in the first half.
However, with Ronningen on the bench, the Cardinals ended the first half in a flurry. From the final 2:20 of the second quarter to the first four minutes of the third quarter, Langdon-E-M went on an incredible 18-0 run to put the game away.
Langdon-E-M's Morgan Freije and Lexis Olson were vital in the stretch in the second quarter, while Ronningen returned to carry the load in the third.
"Coach called a timeout and told us even though we don't have Callie we still need to play as we know how," said Freije, who had 14 points, six rebounds and three blocks. "We've worked so hard, and this is a great reward. Now we need to capitalize on it."
Ronningen, a 5-foot-11 senior who averages 18 points per game, had 10 points at the end of the first quarter. She finished 8-for-9 from the field, 2-for-2 from the 3-point line and had seven steals despite playing just 20 minutes with the foul trouble.
"Coach said I love you as a player, but I hate you sitting next to me," Ronningen said. "It was hard for me, but I had faith in my teammates to get the job done without me."
The Squirrels (20-5) were led by Isabelle Linnard and Cotton. Both finished with 11 points. Smith, who had 18 points in the quarterfinals, finished with six against Langdon-E-M.
"We came up a little short," Central Cass coach Jay Bachman said. "Langdon is a very good team, and they shot the lights out tonight. They were the better team tonight. I have to give their girls all the respect. Our girls, though, never quit, even at the end there they were giving it our all."
Langdon-E-M, which was upset as the No. 2 seed in the first round last year by eventual state champion Kindred, has finished fifth the past two seasons. Playing individually as Langdon, the program has one state title (2005).