ROCHESTER — The last time Lake City was held under 38 points was Feb. 19, 2016 against Hayfield. The Tigers lost that game 62-35. Fast forward five years and 34 days and once again Lake City was held to a similar point total. The difference this time was that at the end of the game, Lake City carried the Section 1AA title off the court.
Century High School was the home to the Section 1AA girls’ basketball championship game Thursday night between fourth-seeded Goodhue and No. 2 seed Lake City. The previous two games this season were won by Lake City. In the first game, both teams ratcheted up the defensive intensity and they combined to score just 83 points. The second game was more open-ended but still the teams managed just a combined 112 points. So the final matchup between the two teams was expected to be another defensive showcase. Few would have guessed that it would end in a 37-35 Lake City victory though.
“That might have been the most physical game of the season,” Lake City head girls’ basketball coach Clay Olstad said.
The physicality on the court didn’t just apply to one area of the game either. Whether it was ball movement in the post, dribbling around the perimeter or just trying to carry the ball through midcourt, everything was a challenge for both teams.
Not that any of this was a surprise though. Goodhue runs one of the most effective press defenses in the region and Lake City is known for its defense creating fast-break points the other way. The surprise of the game was that the Tigers didn’t have one fast break the whole game, and Goodhue had just one after Hannah Gadient intercepted a pass that led to a layup.
So with neither team turning their defensive turnovers into points, the 17-12 halftime lead that Goodhue held wasn’t a shock. In the opening 18 minutes of play, half of Goodhue’s points came off 3-pointers, a trend that continued in the second half. Elissa Lodermeier led all scorers with six points at the break, while Lake City star guard Natalie Bremer sat at five points and three fouls. The latter of which forced Bremer to sit for the final four minutes of the first half.
When the second half began, Bremer returned to the court but Goodhue continued to roll. After two 3-pointers by Elisabeth Gadient, the Wildcats were up by nine points — the largest lead by either team all game. With 12 minutes left in the game, it was beginning to look like the third time was the charm for Goodhue, and it would be heading to state.
But then three consecutive 3-pointers by the duo of Bremer and Lilly Meincke tied the game 27-27. Lodermeier responded with a 3-pointer to reclaim the lead but Meincke hit another deep ball to tie it once again. In a game where any points were tough to come by, that three-minute stretch in the second half had six straight 3-pointers go in.
It was after that run of hot shooting that the momentum started to shift. Up to that point, Lake City’s Grace Bany and Mya Shones had dominated in the paint defensively. Any time that Goodhue tried to push the ball towards the rim, the Tigers duo either blocked the shot or defended so well the shot had no chance of going in.
After the run of 3-pointers though, Bany and Shones began to control the ball on offense as well. The pair scored five of the final seven points for Lake City and drew two trips to the free-throw line as well.
“Grace and Mya were a huge part of the second half — moving and cutting off each other and going strong to the rim,” Olstad said. “It was contact the whole way, but they finished through that and played good D.”
“Defense is where we win games and we knew that,” Bany said. “We knew that if we put a big presence in the lane, we were going to stop them.”
With the score tied 35-35 in the final minute, the pressure defense that Goodhue ran so effectively bit them back. A reach-in foul on Meincke with 45 seconds remaining gave her the one-and-one at the free-throw line. Ice in her veins, she drained both shots and gave the Tigers the two-point lead they needed to close out the game.
“She’s (Meincke) around 80 percent on free throws all year but she knocked down some big-time free throws at the end,” Olstad said.
Goodhue had the ball with nine seconds on the clock but a 3-pointer was wide of the mark and the celebration for Lake City began.
“It’s an absolute dream,” Bany said. “This is what we wanted since day one and to finally have it happen senior year during a COVID year of all years, I can’t even put it into words.”
The win not only meant Lake City were Section 1AA champions, but it marked the first time the team will head to the state tournament since 1984. The Class AA tournament will begin next week, but the exact time and location for the Tigers is unknown at this time.
Goodhue ends its season with a loss in the section final for the second consecutive season. The Wildcats finished with a 17-5 record. This is Goodhue’s second season in Class AA after being bumped up in 2019.
Lake City — Natalie Bremer (11), Mya Shones (10), Lilly Meincke (10), Grace Bany (6)
Goodhue — Elissa Loderemeier (12), Elisabeth Gadient (9), Hannah Gadient (4), Arianna Thomforde (4), Joslyn Carlson (4), Torrie Rehder (2)