Como Park's Ronnie Porter drove against Grand Rapids' Katelyn Jamtgaard. Photos by BRIAN PETERSON, Star Tribune
For St. Paul Como Park seniors Ronnie Porter, Kaylynn Asberry and Jada James, it’s been a long time coming.
Porter, Asberry and James led the way as the second-ranked Cougars advanced in the girls’ basketball state tournament for the first time in school history with a 76-57 win over Grand Rapids on Wednesday in the Class 3A quarterfinals at Maturi Pavilion. Como Park’s only other state tournament appearance was in 2016, with an opening-round loss to Becker.
The three seniors, who combined for 53 points, have been playing basketball together since fifth grade. All have been playing on the varsity team since eighth grade.
“This feels great,” said Porter, who had a game-high 22 points. “It’s amazing. I’m going to cry.”
Como Park (22-6) used a stifling defense and the fast break to advance to the semifinals.
“That’s our bread and butter,” said Asberry, who scored 17 points, including 14 in the second half. “We get the majority of our points off of defense — tips, steals, rebounds and getting the ball up the floor.”
Como Park built a 37-23 lead at the half over the Thunderhawks (22-3) and led by as many as 20 in the second half.
A three-pointer by Shania Nichols-VenNett gave the Cougars their biggest lead, 56-36, with 10:26 remaining. Grand Rapids cut the lead to 10 points, 61-51, with 5:50 left to play. But Como Park regrouped and put together an 11-0 run and put the game away.
James added 14 points for Como Park. Senior guard Taryn Hamling had 20 points to lead the Thunderhawks.
“The plan was to play our game,” Porter said. “If we play our game, we’re unstoppable. When we play like ourselves — move the ball, push the ball — it’s going to turn out like today did.”