No. 4 Pelican Rapids and No. 5 Waseca played mirrored styles of ball but the Bluejays found a scoring touch in the second half and clamped down defensively to hand the Vikings their first loss of the season 38-22 in a Minnesota Class AA girls basketball quarterfinal at Williams Arena in Minneapolis Wednesday, March 11.

“They played a pretty good 2-3 zone; they packed it in and wanted to take away our inside game,” Pelican Rapids head coach Brian Korf said. “We tried to take away their inside game and they hit more shots than we did.”

Leading by two points to start the second half, Waseca got a three-point basket by Jaden Hiller to open up a five-point lead. The Bluejays never relinquished the advantage on the scoreboard after taking control at the end of the first half.

Pelican Rapids answered with a Chloe Paulson field goal and one of two free throws by Ryley Paulson and Anna Stephenson to close to within a point down 16-15 with 14 minutes to play.

Greta Tollefson had a shot from the arc to take the lead that did not fall and Waseca’s Brittney Draeger answered on the other end in a crucial possession to go up 19-15 one minute later.

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“I told the kids to be aggressive offensively,” Waseca head coach Joan Conway said. “I think it took us a little time to settle in and be comfortable doing that. It’s amazing what knocking down a three can make you feel.”

Draeger’s three was a turning point in the game.

Waseca held Pelican Rapids at bay finishing on a 19-7 run to advance to the semifinals.

Hannah Potter hit back-to-back threes at the midway point of the second half for a 32-20 lead at the 8:30 mark.

Greta Tollefson and Maddie Guler (3) defend Waseca's Gabriela Rodriguez (2) in a tightly-played first half of the Minnesota Class AA state quarterfinals at the University of Minnesota Wednesday night. Robert Williams / Forum News Service
Greta Tollefson and Maddie Guler (3) defend Waseca's Gabriela Rodriguez (2) in a tightly-played first half of the Minnesota Class AA state quarterfinals at the University of Minnesota Wednesday night. Robert Williams / Forum News Service

Both teams struggled finding footing on the offensive end to start the game.

Waseca missed its first five shots, but the Vikings had difficulty with the Arena rims and the teams played to a 3-2 Pelican Rapids lead at the first time out seven minutes into the first half.

Anna Stephenson and Tollefson got to the line and initiated a 4-0 run to go up 8-4 with 7:21 left until halftime.

The Bluejays Hannah Potter and Pelican’s Maddie Guler traded three-point baskets two minutes apart to deadlock the score at 11-all with 40 seconds on the clock. The only difference on the scoreboard was a putback at the buzzer by Waseca’s Camryn McQuery to go to the break up 13-11.

“Having that extra boost at the end showed we have what it takes and gave us the confidence that this isn’t done yet,” Potter said. “This is our type of game; we don’t want to score a lot of points. We want to sit back on defense and that’s what we did. We’re perfectly fine only scoring in the 30’s. That’s our game. That’s what we’re used to.”

Potter was the only scorer in double figures with 12 points.

Waseca's collapsing defense made for difficult going in the paint for Pelican Rapids' leading scorer Greta Tollefson (32) Wednesday night in Minneapolis. The Bluejays held Tollefson to nine points. Robert Williams / Forum News Service
Waseca's collapsing defense made for difficult going in the paint for Pelican Rapids' leading scorer Greta Tollefson (32) Wednesday night in Minneapolis. The Bluejays held Tollefson to nine points. Robert Williams / Forum News Service

Tollefson led the Vikings scoring nine points and pulling down 10 rebounds.

Pelican Rapids falls to 29-1 and will play Concordia Academy-Roseville in the consolation round Thursday at 6 p.m. at Concordia University in St. Paul. The Vikings want to finish the tournament strong after a tough first round loss.

“It’s a great accomplishment; they’ve worked hard all season and played together,” said Korf. “Shots didn’t drop tonight. When they don’t drop it’s hard mentally. It takes energy out of you. We didn’t get a lot of fast break points. Credit to them. They did a good job. We’re going to come back tomorrow and play hard again.”

Waseca (25-6) will face top-seeded Rochester Lourdes (28-2) back at Williams Arena Friday, March 13 at 6 p.m. Lourdes defeated Concordia Academy - Roseville 71-55.

In the other half of the bracket, Providence Academy (26-5) built a 10-point lead with less than three minutes to play and upset No. 2 Sauk Centre 47-42.

Providence will face Duluth Marshall in the nightcap Friday night at 8 p.m. Marshall advanced 60-56 over No. 3 New London-Spicer.

No. 5 Waseca 38, No. 4 Pelican Rapids 22

WAS 13 25 - 38

PEL 11 11 - 22

WAS - Hannah Potter 12, Rachel Breck 6, Jaden Hiller 6, Britney Draeger 5, Kloe Wadd 4, Camryn McQuery 3, Gabriela Rodriguez 2.

PEL - Greta Tollefson 9, Anna Stephenson 7, Maddie Guler 3, Chloe Paulson 2, Ryley Paulson 1.