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Fergus Falls girls basketball team headed to state semifinals

MINNEAPOLIS – The Fergus Falls girls basketball team was not going to leave state with the same sour taste in its mouth from last season. Bailey Strand and the rest of the Otters were going to make sure of it.

Led by Strand’s 23 points, five rebounds and five assists, second-seeded Fergus Falls reached the state semifinals with a convincing 61-52 victory over unseeded Kasson-Mantorville in the Minnesota Class 3A state quarterfinals Wednesday at Mariucci Arena.

“I definitely didn’t want what happened last year to happen again, so it was a motivating factor,” said Strand, who scored the Otters’ first 11 points of the game.

Around this time last year, Fergus Falls was unexpectedly knocked out of the state tournament after a 79-78 double-overtime loss to Monticello. And as the Otters and KoMets battled back and forth for the first 18 minutes, those familiar feelings were coming back for Fergus Falls as it held a slim two-point lead at halftime, 31-29.

“It leaves such a sour taste in your mouth when you don’t win your first game,” said Otters head coach Brad Strand. “But you expect in a state tournament game for it to be a one-point game. You might be up. You might be down.”

Making matters dire for Fergus Falls was the absence of senior post Anna Monke, who was charged with three fouls in just two minutes of play in the first half. With Monke riding the pine, Kasson-Mantorville’s 6-foot-2 freshman post Kristin Scott capitalized with 10 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks before intermission.

“She’s good. It was tough (guarding Scott) because she’s big, and I don’t usually guard the biggest girl on the other team,” said Otters post Kristin Traiser. “We needed Anna.”

KoMets head coach Ryan Haraldson added, “We knew they were big, but we have a kid who’s a little bigger inside. We’re pretty balanced … so we had to make sure we used everybody and were aggressive out there.”

In the locker room, Coach Strand had a challenge for Monke.

“I told her, ‘You have to play 18 minutes in this half,’” Brad said.

Using a zone defense to help keep Monke in the game, the Otters limited Scott to one field goal in the second half.

“We just have a really good zone,” said Traiser, who had 11 points and 12 rebounds, “and it really helped protect Anna, so we needed to run that kind of defense.”

With the KoMets’ biggest threat neutralized, Fergus Falls took a 47-37 lead with 7:05 remaining on a putback by Bailey Strand. Kasson-Mantorville got no closer than seven points the rest of the way.

Brianna Rasmusson had 16 points, eight rebounds and three steals for the Otters, and Devonie Smith came up with eight points and five boards in the victory. Scott finished with 12 points and 17 rebounds for the KoMets (25-6), while Taylor Miller (13), Cori Kennedy (10) and Danika Hodgman (10) each finished in double figures.

After a premature end at state last year, Fergus Falls (29-1) will play for a spot in the Class 3A championship at 2 p.m. Thursday against third-seeded Marshall, which beat Chisago Lakes 68-44 on Wednesday.

“We were just so happy when we saw the clock hit zero, and we knew we got this one,” Traiser said.

Half: FF 31, KM 29

KM (25-6): Miller 5 0-0 13, Wiebke 0 2-2 2, Kennedy 3 2-2 10, Hodgman 3 4-7 10, Scott 6 0-0 12, Pingel 0 1-2 1, Worden 2 0-2 4, Glawe 0 0-0 0, O’Brien 0 0-0 0. Totals 19 9-16 52.

FF (29-1): Smith 1 5-6 8, Traiser 4 3-6 11, Strand 9 3-3 21, Rasmusson 5 4-4 16, Monke 0 3-6 3, Reinertson 0 0-0 0, Sawtell 0 0-0 0, Seland 0 0-0 0, Johnson 0 0-0 0. Totals 19 18-25 61.

Story/Photo by Joe Brown/Forum News Service