Braham's Rebekah Dahlman drove on Providence Academy's McKenna Happke (Bruce Bisping/Star Tribune)
Amid an undercurrent of emotion dating back two years, high-flying Braham showed it can win ugly, outlasting defending champion Providence Academy 49-39 to advance to Saturday’s Class 2A championship game.
With once-in-a-lifetime guard Rebekah Dahlman — the leading scorer in Minnesota girls’ basketball history — as their leader, Braham averaged nearly 83 points per game. Providence Academy was the polar opposite. Only three teams had scored as many as 50 points on the Lions.
“I told our kids that the first team to 50 points would win and I really believed that,” Braham coach Tim Moore said.
The game held an added element of drama as the result of a meeting in the 2011 quarterfinals, won by Braham. Dahlman’s aggressive style was the subject of disagreement between the teams, and both sides remembered.
“I really wanted to beat them,” Dahlman said. “We beat them by a couple of points two years ago and they won the championship last year. No doubt I was looking forward to this game.”
Braham charged to a 19-8 lead, courtesy of a 12-2 run. But Providence, battle-tested and senior-led, stayed patient and worked their way back thanks to guard Leah Szabla.
“Leah is very competitive,” said Providence coach Ray Finley. “She brings strength and has a ruggedness at the rim.”
Dahlman, to that point content in getting her teammates involved, took charge, using her quickness and explosive first step to score Braham’s final eight points and keep Providence at bay. Braham led 27-25 at halftime.
The second half was played tightly, with both teams relying on emotion and will as much as talent.
1. Rebekah Dahlman, Braham
Dahlman was the main source of offense for Braham, scoring 25 points despite having an "off night" by her standards. She made the biggest play of the game as she stole an inbounds pass, dribbled the length of the floor, and made a circus shot while being fouled to put the Bombers up by 8 with about a minute left. She always seemed to make right play whether that was a shot or a pass and was able to lead her team to tomorrow's championship.
2. Leah Szabla, Providence Academy
Braham had absolutely no answer for Szabla before she fouled out. She was able to put her head down, drive to the basket, and draw fouls seemingly at will for the majority of the game. Her exit completely changed the game and allowed Braham to pull ahead and get the victory. She finished with 20 points on 6-8 shooting and was 8-9 on free throws.
3. Taylor Finley, Providence Academy
Finley was also plagued by foul trouble late in the game but made a huge impact before fouling out in the closing minutes. She recorded a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds and was also the main outside shooting threat for the Lions.
-John Kelsey, MN Girls Basketball Hub