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Denied a chance to play last year, Becker once again reaches 3A championship

By JIM PAULSEN, Star Tribune, 04/06/21, 10:30PM CDT


The Bulldogs powered past Hill-Murray 84-51 to reach the finals, right where it was when the pandemic shut down the state tournament in 2020.

Becker guard Julia Bengtson supplied plenty of offense — 19 points and 10 assists — as the Bulldogs trounced Hill-Murray 84-51 to reach Friday’s 3A title game against Marshall. Photo: Earl J. Ebensteiner • SportsEngine

The impetus for Becker’s 84-51 thrashing of No. 1-ranked Hill-Murray on Tuesday in the Class 3A girls’ basketball semifinals could be traced to the end of the regular season. The Bulldogs had a 37-game winning streak, but coach Dan Baird hoped to challenge his team before the playoffs with some rugged competition.

They lost three consecutive games, starting with 3A tournament entry Holy Angels on a last-second shot, followed by losses to Class 4A powers Minnetonka and Hopkins.

“We used that as a little motivation,” Baird said. “We lose to Minnetonka and Hopkins, two of the best Class 4A teams, and we drop from No. 1 to No. 3. It was kind of hard to understand. We knew we were the best team.”

First report

While other teams cited COVID-related restrictions -- only 20 minutes to warmup, no locker room, getting suited up before getting on the team bus -- for lackluster starts, Becker clearly had no problem with the approach Tuesday.

The Bulldogs (18-3) ran around and through No. 1-ranked Hill-Murray from the opening tipoff, jumping out to a 16-0 lead and never let Pioneers see a glimmer of hope in cruising to a 84-51 victory in a Class 3A semifinal at Target Center.

Julia Bengtson had 19 points and Adeline Kent 18 for Becker, which qualified for the Class 3A championship game for the third consecutive season. The Bulldogs lost to DeLaSalle in the finals in 2019 and didn’t get the opportunity to play for a title in 2020 before the pandemic shut down the tournament a day before they would have played.

Hill-Murray (20-2), which got 27 points from junior guard Ella Runyon, had its 20-game winning streak broken.

Check back later for more on the game.

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