Hopes for an all-Gopher Conference subsection final in 2AA girls' basketball were dashed by the Big South Conference as Blue Earth Area beat NRHEG 52-45 and St. Peter topped Medford 59-26 Friday night at Mankato East High School. The Bucs and Saints will play for the south subsection title Tuesday at Minnesota State-Mankato. NRHEG won the section crown in 2017.

Medford got off to a quick start against top-seed St. Peter, forcing a few turnovers and grabbing a 6-2 lead. The Saints clamped down on defense and took Emma Kniefel out of the game. The Tigers closed out a successful season with 18 wins and their first playoff victory since 2011. Medford graduates one season, Kristina Niner.

NRHEG spent all night playing from behind against Blue Earth Area, who had defeated the Panthers 46-36 in the final game of the regular season. The Buccaneers went ahead 8-0. The Panthers scored six straight but spent most of the first half down four or six points and trailed 22-16 at the half. NRHEG only shot about 25-percent in the first half.

Blue Earth Area opened the second half on a 7-0 run for a 13-point lead, their biggest of the night. The Panthers shot better in the second half and forced several turnovers when they went to a 1-3-1 defense. However they also gave the ball up too many times, including a few in the closing minutes.

Trailing 40-29, the Panthers went on a 13-2 to tied the game at 42-42 on Sophie Stork's driving layup with about 3:30 to go. The Panthers had a couple of chances to take the lead but turned the ball over and were forced to commit fouls. The Bucs were only 10-for-17 on free throws in the second half, but Caitlin Rorman hit 7-of-8 late in the game and scored 27 points to lead the way to the 52-45 win.

Kelly Harden led the Panthers with 13 points. Betsy Schoenrock had 12 points and 12 rebounds, but was limited by foul trouble and a physical defense that limited her touches. Seniors for the Panthers (17-10) include Harden, Schoenrock, Erin VanWilgen and Gabby Muri.




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