Bloomington Kennedy relied on its height and the long ball to outlast pesky Edina 56-53 on Friday night in Chaska, winning the Class 4A, Section 2 title to advance to its first state tournament in seven years.
Forced turnovers, blocked shots and half-court traps overwhelmed Edina in the first half, and the Eagles’ long-range shooting fueled the win. The Hornets fought back in t he second half, taking advantage of sloppy play to chisel back from a halftime deficit to tie the game with just a few minutes left.
Under pressure, Kennedy freshman guard Kiara Russell drilled two free throws in the last minute. Edina’s M.C. McGrory lifted two prayers in the game’s final few seconds, but both rattled out.
“They’re a tough team,” Kennedy coach Quintin Johnson said of the Hornets. “I didn’t expect them to lie down. They were hustling, getting all the loose balls. They hit some clutch shots, but I’m proud of the way my girls withstood that.”
Kenisha Bell and Russell tag-teamed to drain eight three-pointers in the game’s first handful of minutes, giving the Eagles an early advantage. The game was a dozen minutes old before Bell scored a bucket worth less than three points. She scored 19 of her 21 points in the first half.
“She’s a competitor at the highest level,” Johnson said of Bell, a junior. “She’s been working on her shot, and she’s turned into a well-rounded player.”
Edina was led by sophomore Jill Morton’s 24 points.