Lakeville North guard Sarah Kuma (14) dribbled next to Rosemount guard Ivory Finley (22) in the first half. Kuma had 19 points to lead the Panthers in scoring. Photo: RENEE JONES SCHNEIDER ¥ email@example.com
With the WNBA's Rachel Banham, arguably the best guard in team history, on hand to watch, it was only fitting that strong guard play and a commitment to defense lifted Lakeville North to a 53-44 victory over host Rosemount in the Class 4A, Section 3 championship game.
The Panthers (18-10) had split the regular-season series with the Irish and had lost the most recent battle, 59-47 in the regular-season finale. But Lakeville North used that familiarity to blitz the Irish early, racing out to 17-3 lead. The run was sparked by a strong defensive effort the first time Rosemount had the ball, forcing an Irish turnover.
“We come out and get a big stop on D on their first possession and that got us going,” coach Shelly Clemons said. “We focus so much more on defense than on offense and it worked.”
“That really helped us because we got power over the game early,” said senior guard Sarah Kuma, who led the Panthers with 19 points, constantly using her speed to elude the taller Irish. “I didn’t know Rachel was here, but it’s great we played a great game to show her what we can do.”
Rosemount rallied, cutting the deficit to 26-23 at halftime and got as close as a single point, 38-37, with 6:16 left in the game.
Lakeville North raced out to a 17-3 lead it never relinquished, going on defeat No. 1-seeded Rosemount 53-44 in the Class 4A, Section 3 championship game.
The game Wednesday at Rosemount was the third time these two South Suburban Conference rivals had met this season, having split the first two.
After falling behind by such a large margin, Rosemount clawed its way back, cutting the deficit to a single point, 38-37, with 6:16 left in the second half. But Lakeville North responded by going on a 12-0 run to put the game away.
Senior guard Sarah Kuma scored 19 points for Lakeville North, which will be making its sixth state tournament appearance in the last seven years.
Check back later for more on the game.