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Roseau pushes the pace to beat Staples-Motley, advances to state

In the quest for the high school version of college basketball's so-called Big Dance, Staples-Motley wanted to waltz while Roseau wanted to polka here Friday.

The Cardinals' waltz prevailed early, but the Rams found the desired faster tempo to take a 68-48 win in the Section 8AA championship game. The win puts the 29-0 Rams into the Class AA state tournament Thursday at Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis.

Being undefeated and ranked first in the state in Class AA, Roseau was a big favorite over Staples-Motley at the UM-Crookston gym. But S-M coach Craig Wolhowe had a twist to shut down the running game. The Cardinals took their time with the ball to slow the tempo and didn't attempt to get offensive rebounds. Instead, they all retreated to the other end when a teammate took a shot, most often from 3-point range. It was successful at shutting down Roseau's running game and their high-scoring attack.

The Cardinals led most of the first half, by as many as nine points midway through it. But Roseau rallied with a 18-5 run in the last eight minutes before intermission to take a 28-23 lead. Although the Rams were in the lead, they weren't accustomed to tight scores. Their smallest point margin this season was 12 points.

"(The Cardinals) came out real disciplined and patient and put us back on our heels," Roseau coach Kelsey Didrikson said. "We changed our defense to more half-court trapping to speed things up. And, it helped us focus and buckle down."

That five-point halftime lead quickly ballooned to 13 as the Rams started the second half with a 10-2 run. Staples-Motley never got closer than 10 the rest of the way.

"We thrive on running," Didrikson said. "Our defense gets our offense going."

It was slow to start. Senior Kiley Borowicz came into the game averaging 26 points, but had two points at halftime and ended with 12. Kiley's sisters—sophomore Kacie Borowicz (16 points) and eighth-grader Katie Borowicz (11)—also contributed.

"It was really scary when we were behind, but I knew all we had to do was get off on one of our runs," Kiley said. "Kacie was a big part of that. Being behind in the first half doesn't scare me; but if we were behind in the second, I would have been worried."

Since Roseau's average point spread over their opponents is 37 points, Kacie said she wasn't too worried early.

"I was a little nervous, but we have 36 minutes in a game, so we had a had enough time," Kacie said. "I never had the feeling that we were in trouble. We always have spurts when we pick up the intensity."

The Cardinals, who finished 23-6, were led in scoring by Claire Wolhow's 14. They made 10 2-pointers and eight 3-pointers.

"We took away their fast break for the most part, but when they get going, they're just so dynamic," coach Wolhow said. "Roseau has no weaknesses."