Irish show off their up-tempo ability at Tip Off Classic

Rosemount used the Breakdown Tip Off Classic as an opportunity to unveil what could be the Irish’s new normal.

They came out in their season opener and scored 49 points in the first half. It wasn’t uncommon for past Rosemount girls basketball teams to score that many in an entire game. On Saturday the Irish drained 16 three pointers – including nine by senior guard Larisa O’Neil – in their 83-57 victory over Waconia at Hopkins High School.

The low-scoring, grind-it-out games of the past might not be over for Rosemount, but the Irish want to demonstrate they can play fast, too.

“We’re looking to play a little more up-tempo. We think we have the horses to do it,” coach Chris Orr said following the Waconia game. “We’ll see if we can continue to do it, but we got the job done today.”

The nine three-pointers by O’Neil (who finished with a game-high 27 points) are believed to be a school record, as are the 16 three-pointers by the team. O’Neil was coming off a junior season where she averaged about five points a game.

“We had balance with nine girls scoring, which is a good thing because then nobody can key on one girl and try to take her away,” Orr said.

The Irish return three players who averaged double digits in scoring last season – senior forward Taylor Janssen, junior forward Helen Staley and sophomore guard Alexa Ratzlaff. Junior guard Ivory Finley averaged about six points. Forward Tayah Leenderts and guard Anna Tauer saw playing time last season as ninth-graders. Grace Willmott and Abby McNeil are two more players who got playing time as reserves last season. Janssen, O’Neil, guard Gianna Freking and forward Molly Daly are the seniors on the roster.

Janssen had 17 points, including four three-point baskets, in the Waconia game. Ratzlaff had 15 points, five assists and four steals. Staley had eight points, seven assists and six rebounds.

Things started to click for the Irish in late January last season. They were 9-9 at one point before running off 10 straight victories, a streak that didn’t end until a one-point loss to Eastview in the Class 4A, Section 3 championship game. Rosemount didn’t lose in the month of February.

In the off-season, “our main focus was on getting not just a year older but a year better,” Orr said. “And to play up-tempo. There was a lot of emphasis on skill development because if the players are better we can do a lot more things offensive and defensively.”

On the defensive end, Rosemount blends man-to-man and zone defenses. “We haven’t changed a thing defensively,” Orr said.

The Irish, 10th in the Class 4A preseason rankings, face defending champion and No. 1-ranked Hopkins at 8:15 p.m. Friday in the Pat Paterson Invitational at Hamline University. The Royals, who own a 33-game winning streak, also have University of Connecticut commit Paige Bueckers, regarded as the state’s best player.

The Irish expect to be competitive, and they know others expect them to be competitive.

Orr called the state ranking, “just a number next to our name,” but added, “we know we’re kind of in a different world this year. We have a bullseye on our back and we’re embracing that opportunity.”

Tip Off Classic highlights

One of the top matchups at the Tip Off Classic took place Saturday afternoon between third-ranked Farmington and fifth-ranked St. Michael-Albertville. The teams played at a speedy pace and three Farmington players scored more than 20 points in the Tigers’ 92-79 victory.

Senior guard Molly Mogensen scored 25 points, which not only led the Tigers on Saturday but brought her career total to 1,443 points, setting a school record. The previous record, held by Mogensen’s mother Julie, was 1,438.

Junior guard Paige Kindseth and junior center Sophie Hart had 23 and 22 points in Farmington’s season-opening victory. Katelyn Mohr added 11 points and Peyton Blandin had 10.

The Tigers move on to the Pat Paterson Invitational at Hamline University this weekend. They’ll face St. Louis Park in their opening game at 6:30 p.m. Friday.

Wayzata, ranked second in Class 4A, defeated Eastview 80-48 in a Breakdown Tip Off Classic game last Saturday. Guards Cassidy Carson and Alexis Plitzkow had 16 and 12 points for the Lightning, who play Aquinas of La Crosse, Wisconsin, in the first round of the University of St. Thomas Thanksgiving tournament at 7:15 p.m. Friday.

Senior guards Paige Servais and Zhane Thompson had 21 and 18 points in Burnsville’s 69-57 loss to Holy Angels in a Saturday morning game at the Tip Off Classic.

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