Minnehaha Academy's Terra Rhoades, right, collides with St. Croix Lutheran defender Kenna Moon. Rhoades scored 18 points to lead Minnehaha Academy to a victory in the Class 2A Section 4 final. Photo by Mark Hvidsten, SportsEngine
Minnehaha Academy has won the Class 2A, Section 4 tournament and advanced to the state playoffs for the fourth year in a row.
All four years, they’ve gone through St. Croix Lutheran to get there. In drubbing the Crusaders 62-44 on Friday night at Anoka-Ramsey Community College, the Redhawks (25-4, 10-0) capped an already-sensational regular season that saw them finish No. 7 in the Class 2A rankings provided by Minnesota Basketball News.
Outscoring St. Croix Lutheran (22-6, 7-1) in both halves, the Redhawks showed why they are so highly touted. A well-rounded offensive output plus suffocating defense, particularly in the game’s late stages, preserved the win for Minnehaha.
Terra Rhoades finished with 18 points. Avery New scored 17 points, 12 in the first half, and was a continual presence near the basket on both offense and defense.
Freshman star Mia Curtis added 13 points.
“With my teammates’ help, this was an easy game,” she said.
The contest began differently than most games. Trailing 2-0 roughly a minute in, St. Croix coach David Mielke called for his team to hold the basketball. Which they did, allowing about four minutes of game time to trickle off the clock.
“I don’t know why they did that, it was really weird. I just wanted to play,” Rhoades said.
Presumably, No. 12-2A St. Croix Lutheran tried pulling Minnehaha out of its comfort zone. The Crusaders wanted to force the opposing defenders to come guard them, which may have discombobulated Redhawks coach Josh Thurow’s defensive scheme. But resolutely, the Redhawks never budged and forced St. Croix to play on their terms.
Minnehaha Academy’s will dominated Friday's contest. The Redhawks offense was deliberate when it chose to be and furious when its players felt like it. Aside from a brief hiccup early in the second half, the Redhawks were also starling sterling defensively.
“We want to get their players in foul trouble, so when they’re holding the ball like that, the strategy goes out the window. We did the right thing. Box-and-one is what we were playing, they didn’t like that,” Thurow said.
“St. Croix is a great team, a quality program,” he added. “Of course, I was nervous. But tonight, I think our game plan was exceptionally well-executed."
Minnehaha heads to the state tournament with a team comprised almost exclusively of underclass players. Thurow starts three sophomores, a freshman and a junior—all of whom will return next year.
“I think this year we’re very excited to make it to the state tournament. I think over the next few years, we’ve got to be looking to work hard to win it. These guys might be a year early and I’m really excited to get the opportunity to play in the state tournament. Win or lose, we’ll be cool with it because we know we’re young. We’re coming back and it’s great to get the experience,” Thurow said.
Still, as enticing as it is to project into the future, the Redhawks are one of the best teams in Class 2A right now.
“This is our fourth year [qualifying for the state tournament] in a row, so I think it’ll keep going. We have a lot more potential,” Rhoades said. “We’re young, but a lot of us have a lot of experience in big games. It’s not abnormal for us to be under control and to keep our composure.”
That composure will be tested next week by the opening game of the Class 2A state bracket. Minnehaha's next task will be to exceed where they finished last season. The Redhawks dropped their opening game in the 2016 state tourney to New London-Spicer.
For St. Croix Lutheran, its season comes to a crushing end where it usually does—in the section final against Minnehaha Academy.
“I love my team. They always fight, they battle really hard. We had a great season,” Crusaders coach Dave Mielke said.
“We’re going to really work over the offseason at getting stronger, faster, better at defense. We’re going to take care of business,” he added.
The lone bright spot for St. Croix occurred with 10:56 to play in the first half when senior forward Jazmyn Solseth sunk a baby jumper from inside the right elbow. The bucket gave Solseth 1,000 career points. She reached the hallowed milestone in her final high school game.
Solseth led the Crusaders with 16 points. Gadison was held to just seven.
We had to take care of [Crusaders leading scorer Audrey] Gadison. She’s a really good player, a great shooter. Terra is a dynamic defender. She did a great job guarding Gadison.”
Even though he's steered his program to top finishes year after year, Thurow says he still gets jitters before every big game.
“This never gets old for me, it never gets boring,” Thurow said. “I’ve been hyperventilating for a week thinking about this game. The emotions come. I know how much it means to the girls.”
In 2017, Minnehaha has its sights set on the Class 2A state trophy. Although its roster is young, the Redhawks feel that their season can easily continue deep into March.
"If we keep working together and playing as a team, we can get anywhere," Curtis said.
St. Croix Lutheran's Jazmyn Solseth scored a team-high 16 points. With her second basket, she recorded her 1,000th career point. Photo by Mark Hvidsten, SportsEngine
For the fourth straight season, Minnehaha Academy defeated St. Croix Lutheran in the finals of the Class 2A, Section 4 bracket. The Red Hawks (25-4, 10-0) are headed back to the state tournament.
Junior guard Terra Rhoades paced Minnehaha by scoring 18 points. Sophomore center Avery New was another offensive catalyst, particularly in the first half. She scored 12 of her 17 points in the opening period. Freshman sensation Mia Curtis added 13 points.
It was another cohesive effort for a group that prides itself on chemistry. Once the Red Hawks offense started to click, there was little St. Croix could do to slow their roll.
With a starting lineup comprised entirely of underclass players, Minnehaha finished the regular season ranked No. 7 in Class 2A by Minnesota Basketball News.
Now, they look to avenge last year’s first-round loss in the state tournament.
For the No. 12-2A Crusaders (22-6, 7-1), it was a rough game leading to them coming up one win short of a state playoff berth for the fourth straight season. Though they kept the score tight for the opening minutes, St. Croix had no answer for the teamwork and firepower of the Red Hawks.
One bright spot, however, came with 10:56 remaining in the first half when St. Croix senior forward Jazmyn Solseth netted her 1,000th career point in her final high school game. She finished with 16 points on the night.