Sauk Centre, seeking its eighth consecutive state tournament berth, is used to the pressures of a section championship. Also boasting an unbeaten record this season, the Mainstreeters, ranked the top team in Class 2A by Minnesota Basketball News, have a daunting reputation to uphold.
Coach Scott Bergman said the nerves are still there, but its developed into excitement over the years.
“We love getting to this game,” Bergman said. “It’s a big deal to us. Don’t take anything for granted — you never know when it’ll be your last time playing — so we want to make every opportunity count.”
Sauk Centre seemed to play weightless Friday night in front of a crowd of over 800 in Halenbeck Hall at St. Cloud State University. The top-seeded Mainstreeters ran away with 63-40 victory over No. 2 seed St. Cloud Cathedral in the Class 2A, Section 6 title game.
“Sauk (Centre) is an outstanding team. In my opinion, they’re the best in Class 2A,” Crusaders coach Ron Prom said. “Our girls didn’t give up. It would have been real easy to quit so I’m proud of them for that.”
University of Minnesota-Duluth commit Maesyn Thiesen sank a trio of three-pointers in the opening six minutes of the game for nine of the Mainstreeters’ first 12 points.
Crusaders junior Hallie Hupf knocked down a three to bring No. 19-2A St. Cloud Cathedral within two before the Mainstreeters went on a 21-1 run. The Crusaders (23-7) failed to scored from the field for nearly eight minutes.
Thiesen converted 5 of 8 from three-point range in the first half, scoring 19 of her 21 points in the opening 18 minutes. Sauk Centre (30-0) forced 11 turnovers in the first half which helped create 16 swing points.
“I loved how Maesyn (Thiesen) came out early and how everyone played defensively — that’s kind of what we hang our hat on,” Bergman said.
St. Cloud Cathedral was led by junior forward Meg Januscka who posted 14 points.
St. Cloud State-bound Kelsey Peschel chipped in 14 points as the Mainstreeters’ second-leading scorer, while her sister, Tori Peschel, tallied 12.
The Crusaders played Sauk Centre two years ago in the same game. Prom said “it was really beneficial two years ago — even though we lost to Sauk (Centre) — one of the best things that came out of that game was for our girls to get a taste of that environment and have a desire to get back.”
Sauk Centre will likely draw the No. 1 seed and play at the Target Center in the quarterfinal round of the state tournament on Wednesday. The Mainstreeters are seeking the program’s first state title after falling in the state championship against Roseau a season ago.
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