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Fergus Falls drops thriller 52-51 to Marshall in state semifinals

Fergus Falls senior guard Devonie Smith reacts to the buzzer as Marshall players celebrate their win over the Otters on Thursday in the semifinals of the Minnesota Class 3A state girls basketball tournament at Williams Arena. David Samson/Forum News Service.

MINNEAPOLIS – When Marshall forward Callie Graff stepped to the foul line with 3.7 seconds left in the Minnesota Class 3A girls basketball semifinal and her Tigers trailing Fergus Falls by one point, she just thought of all the free throws the Tigers shot in practice.

More importantly, she thought about what happens when they miss.

“I was thinking about practice and how many times we shoot them,” Graff said. “We run when we miss.”

Graff will be excused from sprints after draining both free throws to put Marshall up 52-51. As soon as Fergus Falls’ Brianna Rasmusson’s desperation heave hit off the backboard and fell to the Williams Arena court at the buzzer, the Tigers were heading to the state title game.

“It was surreal,” said Graff, who finished with 12 points and nine rebounds. “It was so intense, but we were in the game and just fighting for each other.”

After Rasmusson hit a 3-pointer to put Fergus Falls up 9-7 in the early going, the Otters led until Hannah Bennett’s steal and layup put Marshall up 48-47 with 1 minute, 38 seconds to go. The Tigers pushed it to 50-47 before a Rasmusson layup cut the lead to one.

Bailey Strand nailed two free throws to put Fergus Falls up 51-50 with 20.1 seconds to play, but Graff was there for a rebound on the ensuing Marshall possession to force the foul and head to the foul line.

“We knew we had to do it together because we couldn’t get it done if we didn’t,” said Marshall forward Kenzie Beekman, who finished with 11 points and eight rebounds. “Callie came up clutch. We’ve shot pressure free throws at practice. If we miss, we run, so there’s a lot of pressure there.”

Despite leading most of the game, the pressure never left Fergus Falls. The team’s second leading scorer, Anna Monke, played 12 minutes. She fouled out with 11:04 to go and 11 seconds after checking into the game due to starting center Kristin Traiser picking up her fourth foul. Traiser would foul out with 5:31 to go, 17 seconds after checking back in after picking up her fourth foul.

Traiser and Monke accounted for 39 percent of the rebounds for Fergus Falls (29-2) on the season. The two weren’t in the game, as the biggest rebound of the season fell into Marshall’s hands.

“We just maybe didn’t secure one rebound,” Fergus Falls coach Brad Strand said. “Anna Monke only played 12 minutes in the game. I don’t understand that. Kid is an all-state player. Kid needs to be in the game.”

When Fergus Falls lost Monke, the Otters were up 41-35. Behind Bailey Strand and Rasmusson, the Otters pushed their lead to 46-38 with 7:44 to go. Marshall would close the game on a 14-5 run.

“We were scrambling.” Brad Strand said. “We’ve been in foul trouble, but never like that. You tell me it’s a one-point game without those two kids in the game, I wouldn’t have never thought we’d only lose by one.”

Beekman hit a jumper, Sarah Buysse drained a 3-pointer, Morgan Saugstad split two free throws and Beekman drained another jumper to cap an 8-0 run to tie the game with 2:37 to go. Rachel Johnson split a pair of free throws to put Fergus Falls up 47-46 with 2:14 remaining, but the final two minutes belonged to the Tigers.

“I’ve been doing this for 24 years and I don’t really have any words other than I’m proud of them,” Brad Strand said. “I know how it stings when you’re a senior and you’re done, but they did everything they had to do.”

FERGUS FALLS (29-2): Smith 1 1-2 3, Traiser 4 0-0 8, Strand 7 8-8 22, Rasmusson 4 0-0 10, Monke 1 0-0 2, Johnson 0 1-2 1. Totals 19 10-12 51.

MARSHALL (30-1): Buysse 3 5-11 13, Saugstad 0 1-2 1, Beekman 5 0-0 11, Bennett 6 1-1 13, Graff 3 6-7 12, Mulso 1 0-0 2. Totals 18 13-21 52.

Half: F 30, M 21. 3-point goals: Rasmusson 2, Monke 1, Buysse 2, Beekman 1. Total fouls: F 18, M 12. Rebounds: F 45 (Smith 13), M 40 (Buysse 11).

Chris Murphy

Chris Murphy is a sports reporter for the Forum. He's covered high school and college sports in Chicago, North Dakota and Minnesota since 2009 and, for some reason, has been given awards for doing so.

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