Grafton moves one step closer to state repeat basketball title with win over Langdon-Edmore-Munich
Walker Demers collects 22 points and 21 rebounds in the semifinal win.
GRAND FORKS – In the opening quarter, Grafton's Walker Demers showed she was going to be a problem for the Langdon-Edmore-Munich Cardinals on the boards. She immediately hauled in six rebounds in the first three minutes and shut down Langdon-E-M's pushes to the paint while knocking down shots of her own.
She finished the first half with nine rebounds and 11 points.
By the end of the night, she had 22 points and 21 rebounds as the Spoilers cruised to a 51-31 win Friday night over Langdon-E-M in the semifinal round of the North Dakota state Class B girls basketball tournament at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center.
The win avenged Grafton's regular-season loss to the Cardinals and advanced the Spoilers to Saturday's title game against Kindred. Grafton is seeking its second-straight title while Kindred is seeking its third championship in the past six seasons.
“I didn’t really notice how big the number was during the game,” Demers said following the win. “But with my teammates, they do it for me. It’s not me. They help me achieve those goals. Honestly, we wouldn’t be where we are without everyone we have.”
Grafton only trailed for nine seconds in the game, which came just over a minute past the opening whistle. It was Demers that quickly canceled out the one-point Cardinal lead with a put-back basket. From there they never looked back.
“It’s so huge with how (Demers) does it, too,” Grafton head coach Laurie Sieben said. “Just by being so consistent, working hard and moving smart. That just helps us become comfortable in other areas; it becomes a domino effect. When we can keep Walker fresh on the floor our team stays disciplined defensively.”
In Langdon’s 50-47 regular-season victory over Grafton, the Cardinals used a half-court defense and were able to hit shots at a much higher clip. There was a similar gameplan Friday, but it was the Spoilers that were consistent in their shooting.
The main difference between the two sides in the first half was the whopping 59% the Spoilers shot from the field. Not far behind Demers was Ainsley McLain with nine first-half points, all from around three feet out, but highly contested.
“When we played them during the regular season we were not shooting well at all. So, coming out the first half as strong as we did, it came from the heart from all of my teammates. It felt good,” said Demers.
McLain was also the only player in the first half to sink a 3-pointer, helping push Grafton to a 26-17 lead at the break.
The Spoilers opened the second half tightening the grip on their press coverage and followed suit on offense by capping off a 10-2 run they had started in the first half that featured six tricky layups from Demers and a deep 3-pointer from Reagon Hanson.
“We earned it. They play an aggressive defense and we knew going into it we had to make sure that we were aggressive in the way we play. We’re at the state tournament, so they're gonna make things difficult, but we had a great overall team effort,” Sieben said.
Matched up with Demers was Morgan Freije, who in response led the Cardinals in the first half with 10 points and pushed their offense to keep the score within a drivable distance. As a team, however, they could not capitalize on second-chance opportunities.
Jaya Henderson, who led the Cardinals in their quarterfinal win, was their second-half stand out with eight points and two rebounds.
Despite the push from Langdon, Grafton held strong on its lead and outscored the Cardinals 25-16 in the second half.
“I think a big part of that started with our composure, offensively handling their pressure, and then having that energy to be consistent on the defensive end,” said Sieben.
The Spoilers bring themselves one step closer to back-to-back Class B titles. Minot Bishop Ryan is the last team to repeat as state champions when the Lions won in 2014 and 2015.
“You're seeing kids that have been a part of the process the last three years,” Sieben said. “Girls that were on the floor last year, they’ve expanded into bigger roles. We have girls stepping into newer roles and growing in those roles, even during the state tournament.”
Demers, a key component in last year’s championship team, is only taking in more and more as each game passes.
“Even if they haven’t played, we have been here and know the pressure that comes with it. I think that will take us to tomorrow, give us more confidence and hopefully lead us to the win,” she said.
Halftime – GRAF 26, LEM 17
LEM: Morgan Freije 15, Jaya Hendrickson 10, Meredith Romfo 2, Marlee Hetletved 2, Whitney Pankratz 2, Jalynn Swanson 2
GRAF: Walker Demers 22, Ainsley McLain 16, Reagan Hanson 9, Keira Cole 2, Cassie Erickson 2