Marantha's Sami Payne (15), Kylie Post (10), Elise Moore (11) and Jaclyn Jarnot show approval after teammate Breianna Smestad made her second technical free throw to seal a 79-73 win over Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity. Photo by Mark Hvidsten, SportsEngine
Kylie Post drives past Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity defender Hope Feltmann. Post scored nine points in Marantha Christian Academy's 79-73 victory. Photo by Mark Hvidsten, SportsEngine
Last year, Maranatha Christian Academy knocked off Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity by three points to win the Class 1A, Section 4 tournament.
This year, the teams met again — and once more Maranatha squeaked past by the skin of its proverbial teeth.
When the final buzzer sounded at Anoka-Ramsey Community College on Friday night, the Mustangs had defeated the Bulldogs 79-73 to claim the section crown and advance to the Class 1A state tournament.
Although the Mustangs (23-7, 13-0), ranked No. 6 in Class 1A by Minnesota Basketball News, last captured the state title in 2012, they have earned an appearance in the tournament every year since then.
“We’re going to live in the moment,” Mustangs coach Chris Buerman said. “We need to keep up the intensity on defense. Typically we’re known as an offensive team, but our defense carried us tonight. We felt that Lester Prairie is so good that tonight was basically a state tournament game.”
The game was heavily contested all the way through. The sides kept the score roughly even for most of the first half. However, Maranatha went on a 12-0 run just before halftime.
While the Mustangs’ offensive explosion could have buried the Bulldogs (20-8, 9-2), No. 20-1A Lester Prairie roared back, thanks mostly to sharpshooting from guard Steph Lohse. Lohse netted 21 of her 23 points in the second frame. By the game’s final minute, it was a two-point game.
But when trailing 73-71 with one minute on the clock, a delay-of-game technical foul cost the Bulldogs immensely. Maranatha knocked down the subsequent pair of free throws, got the ball back and converted on their offensive possession.
“We never wanted to play perfect,” Lester Prairie coach Mike Lee said. “We never needed to play perfect. We had to come out and play great, which we did. We played extremely well. The expectations the girls put on themselves carry this program and honestly, we expected to win tonight.”
The Bulldogs were led by Lohse’s 23 points. They also received major efforts from junior forward Kayla Weinzierl, who was good for 21 points and nine rebounds, as well as St. Thomas-bound senior guard Madi Radtke, who scored 15 points.
It was entirely a team effort for Maranatha. In the win, four different players scored double figures. Sophomore Breianna Smestad led the way with 21 points while senior forward Sami Payne chipped in 15. Senior forward Elise Moore added 14 points and eight boards, and junior guard Kylie Post posted 12 points 10 rebounds and six assists.
Rarely overshadowed, junior forward Jaclyn Jarnot put forth a well-rounded performance. She scored just nine points, but grabbed seven rebounds and nabbed five steals.
After a thrilling win in the section final on Friday, Maranatha is once again headed to the Class 1A state tournament.
“It never gets old,” Buerman said.
Marantha Christian Academy celebrates its Class 1A Section 4 championship. Photo by Mark Hvidsten, SportsEngine