Forest Lake girls basketball coach Jen Wagner summed up her team’s semifinal contest in the Class 4A Section 7 tournament in one word: memorable.
“There are just some games that, as a coach, you never forget,” she said. “I’ll never forget that game.”
What made her team’s 69-67 victory over Blaine memorable was the way the Rangers erased an 8-point deficit with just 75 seconds to play to claim the win at North Branch on Saturday, Feb. 29.
“My mom always said to me, ‘Your grandfather always preached that the game is never over until the final buzzer sounds,’ and that was never more true that on Saturday,” Wagner said. “Watching our kids never give up, and to see the kids come back, was just incredible.”
It certainly was not an easy road to victory, though. Forest Lake trailed 33-31 at halftime, struggling especially with offensive rebounding.
“There wasn’t a lot that was going our way,” Wagner said. “We gave up 20 offensive rebounds, and you just can’t give a quality opponent that many opportunities to score. It felt that every 50-50 ball, every official’s call that was 50-50, every little thing just wasn’t going our way. You could see the frustration in our kids’ faces. But they never gave up.”
Forest Lake fueled its late comeback by making several 3-pointers, with the biggest of those shots being the one Logan Anderson sank to give the Rangers a 1-point lead in the final seconds. The shot came from an assist from Greta Krieger, who got the ball after Olivia Pekron’s steal.
“Greta could have shot it, but this team has done a great job of making the extra pass, and Greta passed the ball to Logan Anderson in the corner for a wide-open 3 – and Logan knocked it down,” Wagner said.
Anderson led five Rangers who scored in double figures with 18 points. Lydia Bostrom scored 12, Maddie and Greta Krieger each had 11, while Katie Johnson added 10.
Things came much easier for Forest Lake in their first-round tournament game, a 67-32 win over Duluth East on the Rangers’ home floor on Wednesday, Feb. 27. Forest Lake blitzed the Greyhounds with a 21-1 start, led 38-17 at halftime, and never were challenged in claiming the victory.
“We wanted to make sure we were prepared for Duluth East,” Wagner said. “We executed our game plan very well, and everybody contributed.”
Greta Krieger and Anderson led the Rangers with 13 points apiece, while Pekron added 11.
Forest Lake will play for the Section 7 title against Cambridge-Isanti, to be played at North Branch on Thursday, March 5. This will be a rematch of last year’s section championship, a contest the Rangers won 64-50.
“I have a ton of respect for their team and coaching staff,” Wagner said of Cambridge-Isanti. “I think their kids play the right way, and we have had great basketball games against them. They are a veteran team with a lot of inside-outside balance. It should be a terrific game.”